As you plan your new home, one of the first questions to consider is whether working with a smaller, custom home builder or a production builder is the best choice for you. 

Both types of builders are excellent options and each can deliver a great new home for you. Much of the decision will rest in how many choices you wish to make – as well as how much design input you’d like to have, in partnership with your builder, during your home’s construction process.

At its core, the difference between a production builder and a custom builder is simple:

  • A production builder simultaneously builds multiple homes based on a library of home plans. Each home is customised in several key respects. Buyers personalise their home by selecting products in many categories (such as appliances, cabinets, countertops and flooring) from a menu of options offered by the builder.

  • A custom builder typically creates a one-of-a-kind home that offers an even greater range of design choices that’s often built on a single lot. Buyers who wish to select most details of their new home often decide to work with a custom builder.

Production Builders

Production builders often construct multiple homes in new home communities in a specific area. National builders construct hundreds or even thousands of homes per year.

Most production-based home builders:

• Offer house and land as a package
• Offer a range of house plans to choose from
• Allow buyers to select their favourite style/design from a menu in several product categories
• Build homes priced for first-time, move-up and luxury buyers

Higher volume builders can pass on cost savings by purchasing building materials in bulk. This is a positive, however, range of choice is limited so your “personal touch” may be compromised. Also the project manager of your home may or may not be a local person and may change throughout the build, making the relationship with the building company inconstant. You can miss out on that ongoing relationship you would get when working with a custom builder.

Buyers who select a production builder typically cannot change the basic structure – the floor plan, layout of rooms and square footage. However, many builders offer a series of “good, better and best” options at corresponding price points to help simplify your product choices.


Custom Builders

If you have your eyes on a particular piece of land, want to build in an established neighbourhood, 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
• 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

While many people associate custom homes with large and expensive homes, a custom home can range from a simple home to a more elaborate and multi-story floor-plan designed around your lifestyle.

Since most custom builders create homes in a variety of architectural styles and price ranges, a great place to start when selecting a custom builder is to ask to see photos of the past homes they’ve built. Many custom builders maintain strong relationships with past home buyers, so you may also be able to work with a custom builder to set up an appointment to visit a home they’ve previously built.

It is important to note that being able to fully customise your own home means that you will typically spend a lot more time designing and constructing your home than if you worked with a production builder. Given the many choices involved, it’s not unusual for custom home buyers to experience a few more emotional ups and downs in their new home journey. The key to working with a custom builder is to establish a realistic budget and to stick to it, even when you’re enticed by a lovely but higher-cost option!

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.