Production Builders vs. Custom Builders: Which is Right for You?
Making the decision to build your own home means dedicating at least a few months to the process. Some builds seem to go perfectly, while others have a few bumps along the way. The type of builder you choose could make all the difference. You’ll need to choose a builder depending on your timeline, budget and level of customization. Custom builders and production builders might seem similar, but they offer different pros and cons. Consider each and compare them to your wishlist before making your final decision. Here are some of the factors to think about.
Production builders have semi-custom construction down to an art; they can build hundreds of homes a year. They know how much everything costs and structure the build for budget and efficiency. They’ll be able to offer your dream house – within reason, of course. Consider these factors to decide if a production builder makes sense for you.
A production builder uses a set catalog of plans. Image: BCD Homes
- They offer fixed prices. Because production builders build the same homes over and over, they have a better idea of prices. A production builder can give you a near-exact cost, which means you can choose a home and plan more effectively.
- They negotiate the best deal with contractors. Production builders tend to use the same contractors for their homes. This allows them to negotiate stellar bulk deals on supplies and services, passing the savings onto you.
- They’re faster. Managing tight schedules and multiple contractors is a science for production builders. Barring any major snafus, production builders are faster and operate on tighter timelines than custom builders.
- They offer development amenities. Production builders usually create entire developments at one time. They typically develop amenities like parks, walking trails and even sports courts as a draw for potential homeowners. That means you’ll score major perks by choosing a builder’s development over buying your own lot.
- You’ll be restricted to existing plans. To keep costs low and predictable, production builders reuse a catalog of plans. Your home won’t be one-of-a-kind and there may be several others in your development with the same or a similar home.
- Your customizations are limited. Some production builders allow a little customization inside the home. You may be able to have a larger master bathroom or opt for a breakfast nook. But you won’t be able to change the size of the home and may be restricted on things like window sizes or moving walls. You’ll need to choose a plan that’s close enough to what you want, which could put a damper on building your “dream” house.
- Your fixture choices are limited. When choosing things like carpet, tile, counters and fixtures, you’ll pick from a set of pre-chosen options that the builder allows. Restricting choices keeps prices predictable but it could make you feel stuck with options you don’t really love.
A custom builder starts your plans from scratch. Image: McEwan Custom Homes
Custom builders create your home, taking you all the way from a blank sheet of paper to a turnkey property. You’ll get exactly what you want, but it can also mean a less predictable process. Here are some of the major pros and cons of going custom.
- You’ll get a truly unique product. Custom builders start every home from scratch. Whether you come with a plan you found online or you want to create something yourself, each home is unique and designed to your specifications.
- You can choose your own architect. A custom builder might have a preferred architect or designer, but you can bring your own, too. You aren’t limited to any set of plans and if you love an architect’s work, you can have your plans drawn before you start working with your builder.
- You’ll have more choices. Want all-gold fixtures? Done! Want a Game of Thrones mural in your game room? Go for it. Want an oversized deck and huge pantry? It’s yours. A custom builder isn’t restricted in any way, so you’ll get to make every choice to your tastes along the way.
- You’ll have more input. Custom home builders love collaboration, so expect to have more input along the way. Visiting the construction site and having more control over your build is par for the course. It’s a better choice for control freaks or those who truly want the full build experience.
- Expect a longer build. Custom jobs take more time because there are more decisions to make and contractors are lined up on an as-needed basis. It takes time to send out for bids and hire contractors for your home. Expect a custom job to take longer than a production build.
- Less predictable costs. Custom builders usually use a cost plus model, which means the cost of goods and services plus a percentage for managing the build. It’s much harder for a custom builder to predict costs because each build is different. Your cost will depend on all of your options, contractor pricing and industry prices that fluctuate.
- No bulk pricing. Production builders negotiate bulk pricing from the same contractors, but it’s unlikely your custom builder gets the same preferential treatment as a production builder. Your end cost could be slightly higher based on that fact.
- Too many choices. A custom build can seem like too much of a good thing. Picking all of your fixtures, colors and options can definitely become overwhelming, especially if the sky’s the limit and there’s no way to really narrow down your options.
Production and custom builders each have their pros and cons, so it’s a personal choice. Would you rather have the home of your dreams, even if it’s a little more expensive? Or is price your true bottom line? By deciding which factors are most important to you, you can choose the type of builder that makes the most sense for you, your family and your build.