As with many industries, in the home building industry, consumer opinions and expectations are often swayed by marketers, the ever-popular TV home shows, and builder advertising, etc. There's a lot of confusion out there. Not only do some consumers expect a celebrity to renovate or build their house in 3 weeks, but they expect it to cost less than a used car. In order to appeal to picky buyers and command higher home prices, many production builders claim that they are now offering "custom homes" in certain communities.
According to various builder and construction trade groups, a custom home is a one-of-a-kind home that is designed for a specific client, typically for a particular location. How do you know who's who? Custom Home Builders may use plans created by an architect or by a professional home designer. They tend to be small-volume builders, focusing on high-end homes. Conversely, Production Home Builders tend to build on land they own and also tend to use stock plans while offering a choice of upgrades and options. They are typically large-volume builders.
Recently, we have seen a few hybrid builders in the Washington, DC metro area that claim to be "Custom Home Builders", but produce high volumes of homes, giving buyers several existing plans from which they can choose.
Frequently the production or "hybrid" builder will customize stock plans by changing details of the same plans. The builder may change the color of the brick, move a wall or doorway, or modify elevations. However, the house is not truly a custom home unless a designer (usually an architect) has closely studied the lot, interviewed the client to learn how they live, to create a unique home that is tailor-made for the people who will live there.
Let there be no confusion! A custom home is one that is specially designed to meet the specifications of the person who commissioned it. A custom home is constructed from architectural plans drawn up to meet the needs and requirements of the owner—the original owner. Plans can be extravagant and costly. Custom plans are different from stock building plans, where the same plan may be sold to multiple builders and consumers. The process of building a custom home usually takes much longer due to the research required, the original nature of the plans and materials, sourcing the materials, and getting permit approvals for a unique design. Of course, there is an added cost associated with this timeline and process. Even if you're not the original owner of a custom-home, it is often worth the added cost given that the materials and craftsmanship are not ordinary.
It is much like buying a suit. You can go to your haberdasher (yes, I just wrote that) and commission a custom-tailored suit where you pick the material for the shell and lining, the style, the buttons, etc. (much like a custom home) or you can buy an existing suit and have it altered to fit you properly (much like a production-built home).
At Home-Build Concierge, we work with clients interested in custom homes, production-built homes, renovations, etc.
So, why am I writing this post?
I want to clarify the misconception that a personalized or customized production home is the same thing as a custom home. It is not! Though a production-builder may charge a premium for this misnomer, the cost is only really justified if you're buying a true custom home.
Everyone's housing needs are different at different times in their lives and at various budgets. Take the time to choose the right home for you and try not to be misled by TV shows, builder advertising, and the like. The closer your expectations are to reality, the happier you'll be in your new home.
Still confused? Ask your Realtor for help.