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The difference between a custom home builder and a project builder

Building your new home should be an exciting, positive, and painless experience; but, with so many builders from which to select, how do you choose the best one for you? Select the wrong builder and your experience of building your dream home may fall far short of your expectations.

When you start looking for a builder, you will have two main options: a custom home builder or a volume project builder.

So, which builder is the right choice for you?

This comes down to what is important to you, what your priorities are, and what kind of a building experience you want.

What is the difference between a custom home builder and a volume project builder?

Custom home builders are usually small businesses providing a more personal approach. They build unique, one-of-a-kind homes, often taking on a small number of projects simultaneously. This allows for a more tailored, flexible, and personalised service.

When engaging a custom home builder, you will work with the builder throughout the entire process, rather than a succession of salespeople and administrative staff. Often, the builder with whom you work is the owner of the company, too.

A volume builder, on the other hand, is exactly that: they are often a nationally owned company and mass produce many houses per year, building hundreds or even thousands simultaneously. This quantity of homes seriously limits personalisation and provides very little flexibility for you, the client.

Many project builders call themselves custom home builders, but this is far from accurate.

If you want to customise a house design with a volume project builder, you can; but, it comes with a high price tag. Project builders rely on building the same home over and over with very little room for change to generate profit

Which builder should you choose to build the biggest investment you will ever make?

If you prefer to be a part of the design process and to design a home that is unique to you and your family and that has all the features that you want, then you should talk with a custom home builder.

 Working with a custom builder allows you to design a home that will make the most of your land. Whether your property be an unusual shape or a considerable slope, a custom home builder will work with you to design a home to perfectly suit it.

By engaging a custom builder early, before you have plans, you can work directly with the builder and their drafting team. Designing your home then becomes a collaborative endeavour. A custom home builder brings together trusted draftspeople, pricing knowledge, and you to design a home that works for your budget, your needs, and your expectations.

Is it more expensive to build with a custom home builder?

Volume builders may appear cheaper when it comes to pricing, because their base price does not usually include many items to finish the home. Their advertised prices appear low until you start adding items like driveways, air conditioning, and flooring, which are required to finish the home.

It is important to look for a builder who is transparent in the quoting stage and provides a clear and detailed list of what is included and what is not included. Custom home builders quote each home individually, based on the specifications and finishes that you request. This can take time, but it’s reassuring to know that your quote will be accurate and detailed, not based on a generic square metre price.

Volume builders often have display homes you may walk through to get an idea of what your house design will be like. Remember, display homes include a whole range of luxury upgrades to attempt to ‘wow’ you. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the home on display is what you will get for the advertised base price. These luxury upgrades give you a false sense of what the home will actually cost to build.

A custom home builder may appear more expensive, but not when you compare like for like.

An honest custom home builder will be happy to show you through a nearly completed home that they are building for actual customers. This gives you a true indication of the quality and finishes that they offer.

Is good communication with your builder important to you?

Good communication is the foundation of any relationship. Signs of good communication include returning messages, emails and phone calls within a timely manner.

As mentioned previously, when you engage with a custom home builder, you will most likely deal directly with the builder—owner of the company—with one point of contact.

Volume project home builders may be much larger companies, making direct communication with the owner near to impossible. Instead, you deal with multiple departments, which can mean different people at each stage: sales, contracts, preconstruction, construction, and maintenance.

Onsite meetings that give the client direct access to the builder and tradesmen allow the client to visualise how their design selections will look in their home. Onsite meetings are part of the client experience with a custom home builder. These can be incredibly important when finalising kitchen designs and paint colours, and they are an exciting part of the building experience.

When talking to builders, ask if they use an online project management system. This is a fantastic tool that keeps you, the client, informed and provides you with real-time updates throughout the entire design and build process.

So, will it take longer to build with a custom home builder?

The short answer is no.

Custom home builders are often in more control of each of their builds, as they have a limited number of homes at any one time. This enables them to be more aware of time frames to build each home and construction start times.

Volume builders have many homes under construction at once, which can make it difficult to lock in exact start times and manage the progress of each home.

If you would love to be involved in the design of your new home and have the security of knowing there will be no hidden costs while also dealing directly with the builder throughout your building experience, then a custom home builder is the best choice for you.

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