The Difference Between Production and Custom Homes

Choices Are Not Always Clear

If you are considering building a new home, you first need to decide whether to choose a custom or production home builder. The definition of a custom home builder has become somewhat muddied in the last few decades. So what’s the difference?

Production Homes = Fewer Options, Cookie Cutter Plans

After World War II, government-funded mortgages for returning soldiers spurred the first development of production homes in New York and California. They were truly a production — quick construction of up to 30 homes a day right next to each other, all identical. Expansive tracts of land were divided into lots, which is why they were also called “tract” houses.

We still use the term “tract” or “cookie-cutter” to describe housing developments where builders use identical or a limited number of floor plans and home designs. But unlike townhouse plans, single family homes built by production builders these days allow for some options — like exterior colors and inside cabinets and flooring — to be decided by the homeowner. Choosing a production builder means that you will have limited say-so in the home design, and your home will be on a standard sized lot owned by the builder.

“Production” home does not necessarily translate into lower quality. But production builders generally focus on completing homes quickly and inexpensively, something they achieve in part through large scale buying power — some production builders work nationwide. Using less expensive trim and fixtures can result in an appealing price upfront, but might mean homeowners are repairing or replacing things sooner. Many production home builders build homes before selling the lot, which appeals to families who want a new home quickly and aren’t interested in choosing its features.

Custom Home Builders Meet Your Specific Needs

Homebuyers who have very specific ideas about the type of house they want seek out custom home builders. Typically, custom home builders work locally or regionally, and on a much smaller scale. Custom homes can be located in planned developments or on individual properties.

Instead of just tweaking existing design plans to add a mudroom or change the bathroom fixtures, a true custom home experience begins with the homeowner looking for their ideal home design. A good custom home builder should have some plans to get clients started, and also should also have a team of designers whose goal is to make the home design process easy and enjoyable for the home owner. Once they pick a floor plan, homeowners can have a hand in tailoring their home specifically to their family. Even if it is located in a builder-owned neighborhood, a custom home will be completely unique. And not just because of the brick color or the placement of the garage.

The appeal of a custom home build is that the homeowner will get exactly what they want and need, whether that is simply a reflection of their style, added energy saving features or accommodations for when the homeowners age.

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