Is building a custom home what you're looking for?
If you have your eyes on a particular piece of land, want to build in an established neighborhood, already have a set of floor plans, or want to be heavily involved in each step of your home’s design, then consider a custom home. As the name implies, the process of building a custom home is less scripted than a production home, because there are no pre-defined choices or menus to choose from. With custom homes:
- The home can be built on land you own or land that you acquire.
- You can supply a floor plan or commission a set of home plans to be drawn from scratch.
- You can work with a separate architect and builder – or with a design-build company that manages both the architectural design and the construction process.
- You’ll be more involved in the process and have the opportunity to make many decisions.
- You can pick from nearly any product in a category – within your budget, of course – rather than selecting from a defined menu of choices.
Expect to pay more for a custom home than a production model of similar size and floor plan; after all, the typical custom builder doesn't enjoy the economies of scale and labor efficiencies that a production builder does. Of course, the actual price will depend on a number of variables – the most obvious being the size of the home, the intricacy of its design, the building products and materials you select, and the land you purchase.
Once you select a custom builder, you can supply your own floor plan or work with an architect to design a home from scratch. Be prepared to select custom woodwork and to select nearly any type of appliance, flooring and cabinet. As a custom home buyer you can select most details of your home. You can work closely with the architect and builder to site your home and to design a floor plan that works around existing trees on your land and that places your windows to take advantage of the best views.
The good news? When building a new home, your choices are nearly unlimited; the main restrictions are your budget and any building code or zoning limitations. If you find that freedom to create a home from a blank sheet of paper to be exciting, then building a custom home is likely for you.
On the other hand, you may be considering wooded, rural or steep hillside property. While such land is no doubt scenic, the upfront costs of preparing previously undeveloped rural land for construction is typically a significant additional cost in addition to the purchase price of the land. Site prep – building a driveway, bringing in water, electric and sewage lines, and excavating the foundation – can be quite expensive. Your builder and architect can help you estimate those costs, too.
Even if you’re building on already developed land, you and your architect and builder need to carefully research zoning or deed restrictions. For example, you may be required to site your home on particular part of the lot and to keep all structures a certain distance from the property line – leaving insufficient room for that three-car garage you want. To avoid surprises, have an attorney clarify all restrictions and get estimates on site work (either via the builder or on your own) before completing a land purchase.
Because the process of building a custom home is, not surprisingly, truly customized, you’ll typically spends a lot more time designing and constructing your new home than you would if you work with a production builder. Equipped with the information above, you’re ready to decide if a production or custom builder is your best bet. A good production or custom builder will each deliver a high quality home that’s personalized for you with much better energy efficiency and indoor air quality than a typical resale home. So, the difference comes down to how many choices you’d like to make to determine the unique look and feel of your new home.