Production Builders, Semicustom Builders & Custom Builders

When you are looking at purchasing new construction home there are many factors that need to be given consideration. The common decisions like price, area and design all need first consideration, but the next questions become, how quickly would you like to be in your new home, and what type of builder would you like to work with?

Essentially there are four types of home builders but in this article we will be discussing three of the four that home buyers have to choose from; production builders, semi-custom builders and custom builders. Often time’s the desired final purchase price is the deciding factor as to which of these building contractors the buyers end up working with. But having a basic understanding of the differences between them may end up making the decision process simpler.

Production builders, or as they are sometimes called, tract builders usually start out at the entry level price points in residential new construction. In our area over the past few years the price range in homes built and offered on the market by production builders has begun covering a broader price range than it has ever before. With production builders, buyers are at times limited to particular subdivisions, floor plans and designs within these developments. Production builders often translate to few­er choices and decisions for the buyers, but there are still plenty of selections that can, and need to be made. But even these choices may be limited to a smaller group of selections. One of the more common questions buyers ask when considering production built homes concerns the quality and workmanship that goes into the construction of the home. To that question I always remind buyers that production builders adhere to the same minimum code requirements as semi-custom or custom builders. Production builders at times may use a more economical type or quality of materials, equipment, and appliances, in their homes to keep their starting price points affordable. But some products and features offered may also well exceed minimum code requirements. Often time’s production builders offer either a selection studio on site at a model home, or off site at a separate location. The builder utilizes the selection studios to provide buyers a one-stop location to make their available selections. Buyers select items like interior and exterior colors, interior and exterior doors, cabinets, countertops, floor coverings etc. Production or tract builders very much have their place in our real estate market just like the semi-custom, or custom builders. Production builders offer a product to the market that allows many buyers another option other than a resale home that’s best suited to their price range.

Semi-custom builders often offer a wider variety of designs, floor plans, construction packages and features than production builders. Some semi-custom builders may even market or call themselves “custom builders” because they allow more custom changes than their production builder counterparts. Even so with semi-custom builders the buyers are at times limited to particular design packages, floor plan styles and selections. When it comes to semi-custom built homes the quality and workmanship can often times be very comparable to custom built homes. But in certain areas of the homes construction the builder may also be offering a more economical line of products or finishes. For instance the building contractor may offer mid-grade vinyl windows rather a wood clad window, or drywall cased interior windows and doorways as opposed to interior trim finish windows and doorways, or factory built cabinets and bases rather than custom built. There are many areas in the homes construction where the builder may offer a more affordable alternative in order to keep the homes price point at a more moderate range. At times these alternatives can be so subtle they can go nearly unnoticed by buyers unless pointed out by someone more experienced. Some area builders also offer a production built line of homes along with a semi-custom built line of homes. There are also custom builders that offer a semi-custom built line of homes along with a full custom line. At times these building contractors market and offer these different lines under separate brand names. This allows them the ability to work with a wider range of home buyers, and maintain their relationships with former clients who may be upgrading their homes from one line to the next in the coming years. Some semi-custom builders also offer selection studios for their buyers, others employ a consultant or representative to assist the buyers with their selections, while yet others simply provide the buyers with names and locations of local businesses that the builder works with in order for the buyers to stop in and make their selections. Regardless how the selections are to be made it is always extremely important that the buyers make their selections in a timely manner as to not delay the process. Construction delays caused by the buyers can ultimately lead to charges often calculated per day.

Custom home builders at times feature home designs, or styles that they’ve built in the past on their websites or in their marketing materials, or possibly even as model or showcase home, but with custom builders a buyers abilities to make the changes and selections in their new home is only limited by code restrictions, zoning ordinances, construction guidelines associated with a subdivision and the dollar amount that the buyers want to spend. If you are buyers that have their own design ideas that you want to incorporate in to your new home, than a custom home builder will likely be the way you will want to go. If you are looking at a completely unusual concept in a new home design then you may also be working with an architect and/or drafts person in the initial planning stages. Often time’s custom builders have architects they have experience working with or drafts people and designers as subcontractors or as part of their staff that assist with custom designs. The old joke is bring a custom builder one line floor plan on the back of a bar napkin and they’ll turn it in to a reality. On total custom designs buyers need to also prepare for larger possible builder and plan deposits. Custom builders will also often employ or subcontract the services of an interior designer or design consultant to work directly with the buyers throughout their design and selection process. Depending upon the overall scope and design of the home the custom home building process can also take much longer than say a semi-custom home building process. It may require several meetings with the buyers, building contractor, architect and interior designer to iron out all of the details.

The fourth builder type we won’t be discussing at any detail in this article is factory built homes or as they are sometimes called modular homes or panelized homes. Subdivision covenants and construction guidelines, local building codes and community and/or zoning ordinances at times restrict the use of these types of homes. If you are a buyer considering purchasing one of these homes, make certain there are no restrictions in your area to keep you from doing so.