If you want to build a new home — whether because you’re tired of dealing with other people’s dirt (a bigger reason than you might think) or just want to have something completely brand new and original — you first need to consider whether to go with a custom home or a production home.
A custom home is designed specifically for a client on land purchased by the client. If you want your home to stand out in the crowd with unique architecture or you want to include specific design elements and features (a bowling alley in the basement, perhaps, or a special gourmet kitchen), then going custom might be the right choice for you.
A builder that specializes in custom homes may have its own architects and interior designers to consult with. They may develop a floor and site plan or the builder may offer a selection of fully customizable floor plans. Another option is to bring your own architect and designer to the table.
Building a custom home may seem out of reach financially for many people — but that’s not necessarily the case. It comes down to budgeting. “You can have a nice home within your budget,” said John Bitely, president of Sable Homes, a production builder based in Rockford, Mich., with a background in custom homes.
You should work with your builder to choose materials wisely and cost-effectively and to determine your design priorities, such as that gourmet kitchen. “People associate quality with the type of building process, but what they’re talking about are the amenities,” Bitely said. “But you can have high-end homes with high-end amenities that are not high quality.”
Many custom builders can help you locate a lot to build on, but if you already own the land where you want to build, you need to make sure the land is properly evaluated by a civil engineer prior to construction. “There might be added costs involved if there are problems with the property,” Bitely said.
Some of the issues to consider include local zoning or specific structuring requirements, soil types and structure, power line easements, accessibility to water and sewage infrastructure and so on.
Production homebuilders, whether national builders or regional ones, generally offer a range of design plans in a community of preselected lots at various price points. These builders built a larger volume of homes simultaneously.
If you are first-time buyer, a production home might be a good choice because you don’t have to make quite so many decisions right out of the gate as you would with a custom home. But you would still have plenty of opportunities to put your stamp on your new home — which is the fun part of building new in the first place.
Some production builders, like Sable Homes, are taking production homes almost to the fully customized level with a wider range of design and material options thanks to more streamlined and efficient building processes and materials management. “We offer customization within structured plans according to people’s wants and needs and their budget,” Bitely said.
Production homes are also a good option for homebuyers who want or need a quicker turnaround time in construction. A production home generally takes about six months to complete, while a custom home can take considerably longer, such as up to a year, depending on the scope of the project.
Judy Marchman is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer and editor who, during her 20+-year career, has written on a diverse number of topics, from horses to lawyers to home building and design, including for NewHomeSource.com. Judy is the proud owner of a new construction home and has gained plenty of story inspiration from her home ownership experiences.
A horse racing aficionado, she also has written on lifestyle, personality, and business topics for Keeneland magazine and Kentucky Monthly, as well as sports features for BloodHorse, a weekly Thoroughbred racing publication, and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine. When she’s not in front of her laptop, Judy can usually be found enjoying a good book and a cup of tea, or baking something to go with said cuppa.