By Mark Donovan
The major advantage in building a custom home is that you get a completed home that ideally meets your needs, both in terms of function and quality.
Today most spec homes are built using “builder’s grade” products in order to minimize cost and maximize profits for both the builder and real estate agent. As a result, the new homeowner frequently winds up purchasing a home that has products installed, e.g. appliances and cabinets, that have short life expectancies. In addition, with a spec home its pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get (wysiwyg), both in terms of layout and room sizes. Even if you sign a purchase and sales agreement for a to-be-built new home in a new housing development you frequently are limited in house styles, layouts and features.
When building a custom home, on the other hand, you can choose the floor layout and room sizes. In addition, you have the freedom of lot selection, home style, cabinet and flooring selections, window and door choices, siding material and color, lighting, etc. The list goes on. Virtually every feature and product of the home design is for you to decide upon.
Building a fully custom home however, does come at a price. Unique features and products are not sold at “builder grade” prices at box home improvement stores. Consequently you should expect to spend 2 to 3 times more per square foot on construction costs when building a fully custom home.
Alternatively, a semi custom home is a compromise between building a fully custom home and purchasing a spec home. As a result, building a semi custom home provides you with the ability to select some of your home’s features, while not blowing your home budget.
When building a semi custom home, the builder usually presents you with several house styles and floor plans to choose from. In addition, you are usually allowed to select flooring, cabinets, appliances, lighting fixtures and lighting locations. Frequently the flexibility is offered via “budget allowances”. For example a builder may offer you a $2000 kitchen appliance allowance where you choose what kitchen appliances you want installed in the home’s kitchen. If you decide to purchase appliances in excess of the allowance then you pay the additional costs out of your pocket.
In addition, when building a semi custom home you will frequently have the opportunity to select various building options such as attached garages, family rooms, unfinished rooms and even deck sizes.
Deciding to build a custom home is not for the faint of heart. Even if you have selected a great architect and builder you will be required to do a lot of work and make a lot of choices. Expect to spend many a day at kitchen and bath centers, flooring stores, lighting stores, etc. You will need to make decisions on many aspects of your custom home that you would not otherwise have a chance to do if purchasing a spec home. However, for most homeowners choosing the path of building a custom home is a positive experience. Everyday they live in the custom home they get to appreciate the choices that they made during the building of their custom home.
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