Often the starting point in a new home building journey, and one of the most common questions we get is the pros and cons of building with a volume project builder vs custom builder. Like many things in life, at the end of the day it’s horses for courses. However if you consider the below factors and apply them to your own circumstances the right answer should prevail.
Volume or project builders are those builders that offer a series of standard home designs. They generally build at large scale often in the hundreds or even thousands of homes per year.
Custom builders, on the other hand, operate from architecturally designed plans prepared specifically for the needs of the home buyer. Generally, these builders will manage less than a dozen home builds per annum.
So what are the major differences and considerations when choosing between a volume project builder vs custom builder?
1. Available budget and potential cost savings
For most people, especially first home buyers and investors, the cost of building a home is the first major consideration. Project builders can easily save the home buyer more than 50% compared to a similar home managed by a custom builder. Due to the project builder’s scale and level of standardisation, they can procure trades and materials at substantial savings.
Upfront costs are also significantly less with no architectural costs which are often $25k-$50k (or more), and there are no or limited costs associated with managing town planning approvals. On this front project builders win comfortably.
2. Speed to build the home
Sometimes the time required to build a new home is also an important consideration, especially for those facing life changes like a growing family, or those building for investment purposes. Due to limited planning requirements, availability of trades, and working from largely standard home designs, project builders can normally construct a home in as little as 4 months, up to about 9 months.
Compared to custom builders that need to manage an extended planning and consultation process, source specific trades with less scale, and working from fully customised floor plans, as a general rule you need to allow 12 to 15 months, but this can easily become 18 months end to end. Again project home builders win on this front offering time savings of up to 12 months.
3. Land dimension considerations
If you already own your land or are considering a knockdown rebuild, consideration of the land dimensions and locations may influence what type of builder you will need to work with. As a general rule, if the land block has more than 2-3 metres of slope, project builders will have minimal floor plans that will work with the block, in which case you would need to consider a custom builder.
Likewise, project builder’s home designs by nature don’t take account of the block orientation to natural light, odd shaped blocks that are L-shaped or triangular, nor bushfire regulations in certain areas. So if these are important factors to you and your block of land, you will find that custom builders win on this front and you will probably need to consider using a custom builder.
4. Degree of customisation and options being sought
Some perceive that project builders don’t allow any customisation of home designs, but this is not correct. In most cases, project builders will work with you to make the necessary floor plan modifications to a standard design. They also normally offer a range of inclusions options and upgrades to enable you to spec the home to your liking and budget. However, your starting point will need to be one of their standard designs, and the more modifications you seek the higher the ultimate costs to build will be. If you are after a really unique home design with a high level of customisation for your specific needs, you will find a custom builder wins on this front.
5. Viewing the home before its built
Project builders normally have 50-100 home designs to choose from, and in some cases many more. The larger builders invest heavily in display homes and often have up to half of their designs on display. The beauty is you can walk through a display and get a real life feel of the space, flow and suitability of the floor plan and finishings to meet your needs before laying down even a dollar of commitment.
While custom builders may allow you to view previous work they have completed to get a sense of their workmanship and capabilities, you won’t be able to experience the actual design apart from reviewing the floor plans and elevations with your architect and builder. This is a major benefit of project builders and another factor they win hands down on.
6. Organisation size, house and land packages, and other considerations
If you prefer to be working with a small organisation and dealing with the same 1 or 2 people when constructing the home, a custom builder will be for you. Project builders will normally provide 1 or 2 key points of contact for the pre and post construction process, but the reality is they are generally larger organisations and can involve several touch points.
If you don’t have land and are looking for a house and land package, then most project builders will have exclusive arrangements with land developers that enable them to offer house and land packages, which can be very handy. This is not something custom builders can offer, however they will manage site clearing for a knockdown rebuild whereas project builders will normally ask that you appoint a contractor to prepare the site. Depending on your personal circumstances and preferences, who wins on these fronts will change from buyer to buyer.
The verdict: volume project builder vs custom builder
The question of using a project builder vs custom builder is a fundamental starting point in a new home build journey. It’s sometimes very clear, but in other situations, it can be more complex. But on balance while custom builders do some amazing work, if you are working with a constrained budget of less than $500k (excluding land), you are looking to build in less than 12 months, and can find a standard plan that meets your personal and family needs a project builder will win every day of the week.
If you need help answering this question or finding a home design and builder for your specific needs, try speaking with one of our expert phone consultants for free and independent advice. You can call 1800 184 284 or book a call back at calendly.com/ibuildnew/callback
Latest posts by Daniel Peterson (see all)
- Volume Project Builder vs Custom Builder – Who Wins? - December 14, 2016
- The Best Time to Build a New Home - September 8, 2016