What is Custom Home Building?

When questioned about their overarching goals in life, I would wager that many Americans mention homeownership. Yet, when the time comes to purchase or build a house, do buyers truly understand what they’re receiving? Is their home custom, production, or a spec? With homes representing a substantial portion of an owner’s life savings, it’s important to fully grasp what each entails before putting pen to paper. To better appreciate what custom home building entails, we’ll contrast it with production building. To break the differences down, let’s start by reviewing the input from our buyers.

The Custom Home Experience: From Concept to Construction

A potential buyer walks into our office and is curious about building a home. A series of questions follows, narrowing down what the buyer wants to build and for how much. From their answer, we are able to determine if a custom home is the buyer’s best option. Most of our owners are either looking to build their forever home, or seek to upgrade to a more luxurious lifestyle as they progress through their careers. Consequently, our homes include nicer finishes and features, amounting to more dollars per square foot than our tract builder competitors.

If we still fit an owner’s criteria, we’ll ask where the buyer wants to build. DiPrima currently owns lots in two communities: Laguna Village and Casa Bella, both in Melbourne, Florida. If neither are to the buyer’s particular liking, we’ll assist with their search to find a suitable individual lot for sale. Once the location is determined, we begin creating the floorplan. Buyers are welcome to choose from our variety of plans and modify them as they please. Otherwise we can start from scratch and create a unique design with a draftsman.

While we have to work within the constraints of the lot, everything is customizable. Add a garage, delete a hallway, or raise the ceilings. We encourage buyers to suit their house to their specific needs. From the floorplan, we’ll generate an estimate and draft a contract. Within the contract are allowance items, like tile, lighting fixtures, and landscaping. This permits the future homeowner to be as excessive or conservative with their selections as they please. They want to cover everything in Italian marble? No problem, just say the word. Spend less money on landscaping? Great, we’ll give them credit for the difference. Ultimately, it is the homeowner’s input that defines custom home building, making no two homes identical.

Production Home Building: A Study in Efficiency and Limitations

On the other end of the homebuilding spectrum are the production builders. These outfits are also dubbed tract builders as they purchase large tracts of land and subdivide them into individual lots. It is not uncommon for one of these builders to buy a parcel over a hundred acres and build hundreds, if not thousands of homes in a matter of several years. Their organized efforts to achieve mass quantities gives rise to the term production builder.

Buyers have minimal input in the design of their homes, if allowed any input at all. Typically, there are just a handful of floor plans to choose from in these sprawling communities, hence their nickname: cookie-cutter housing. They may change the streetscape by flipping a floorplan or altering the front elevation, but almost everything else is identical. Many of the houses in these neighborhoods are built without a buyer in mind, and sold during construction or after the house is completed. However, tract homes do serve an admirable purpose. As builders can efficiently knock out complete neighborhoods in minimal time, these houses are considerably cheaper and act as a great starter home for the first-time buyer.

Quality and Craftsmanship in Custom Home Building

Another defining aspect of custom homebuilding is the commitment to quality. Quality is very cliche in construction as everyone uses it, but not everyone means it. We achieve our standard of quality construction through two main means: supervision and craftsmanship. A DiPrima superintendent is limited to a lower number of houses than his or her production builder counterpart. Capping a superintendent at around six houses ensures that they possess enough time to give their assigned projects their full attention.

Alternatively, production superintendents may be stretched thin supervising the construction of a dozen or more houses. Our custom superintendents are always on their respective sites interacting with the subcontractors and maintaining the standard of quality. As DiPrima’s superintendents put their eyes on the project daily, they also schedule and coordinate construction from the field. A production superintendent may be too busy to walk through each house, and as a result, production builders may resort to office-oriented coordination with various computer programs attempting to track, estimate, and schedule construction. Rushing the projects and stacking the schedules usually leads to minimal attention to detail and a pile of problems in the future.

Additionally, custom builders hire their contractors based on their abilities and not their prices. While a custom and production builder in the same area may be pulling from the same labor pool, the custom builder with roots in the region will know who produces a quality product. DiPrima Homes has been building in Brevard County for six decades, and during that time, we’ve established relationships with trust-worthy contractors. In our case, we use many of the same contractors repeatedly and regardless of the project as we know what they’re capable of providing. A production builder new to the region will send out invitations to bid and simply select the lowest bidder. It goes without saying that the lowest bidder is typically not the most qualified.

Making an Informed Decision Between Custom and Production Homes

If you’re in the market for a new house, consider what you’re looking for and how much you have to spend. Custom home building involves both homeowner input and quality construction. Homeowners have the freedom to build what they want, but quality is not cheap nor quick. When you’re shopping around, we encourage you to visit a custom builder’s model, and a production builder’s model. Pay close attention to the smaller things: paint, trim carpentry, and grout lines. The differences between custom and production will be apparent.

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