There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of home builders out there who claim they can build you the house of your dreams! But honestly how do you choose the right builder? If you are someone like me who is easily overwhelmed by tough decisions, how do you even begin to navigate through the muddy and murky waters to choose which route you want to go to build your new home? Unless you were lucky enough to hit the lottery or inherit millions from your long lost aunt Sally, chances are YOU are the one who is going to have to PAY for your decision for years to come. Make the RIGHT decision for YOU!
For those of you that are new to my blog, my husband and I are currently knee deep into a custom home construction project that we started working on several years ago. In an attempt to help others that are also traveling on the long journey HOME (no pun intended!), I began a Blog Series about building your dream home and the four key people you hire in the process to help you complete the arduous task. I have already discussed The Architect/House Designer and The Excavator. Before I reveal Part 3 of my Blog series, The General Contractor, I thought I’d take some time to write a post detailing something I have
probably been asked 1,000 times over the past several years– and that is — WHY did we choose to build a custom home RATHER than a production home?
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT BUILDER: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PRODUCTION BUILDER AND A CUSTOM BUILDER?
Production “Box” Builder Home Process
- Select a lot and home plan from Box Builder’s sources.
- Select elevation.
- Select finishes at Design Center.
- Make no changes.
- Production builder builds home.
- Sounds pretty easy, right?!?
Custom Builder Home Process
- Find your own general contractor who specializes in custom built homes.
- Supply your own home plan or work with an architect/home designer to create from scratch.
- Site prep and perform your own land excavation.
- Design the home interior.
- Select all home finishes from anywhere you choose.
- Custom builder builds home in 4x times longer than what you initially thought it would take. [Okay- just kidding – maybe only 3x as long. HAHA!]
- Sounds pretty insane, right?!? [It sure is–but I’m still breathing! Insert here–Me gasping for air and going completely insane! 😲 😭]
First off, I want to start by saying, I feel that there are definitely pro’s and con’s to either route you take to your dream home. I feel that regardless of which direction you go, the end result will hopefully be the same… A BEAUTIFUL, WELL BUILT HOME that will make your heart skip a million beats! This post is in NO WAY intended to discourage you from production building. There are definitely reasons where I feel that production building is the way to go. Some specific reasons include your age, anxiety levels, ability to handle stress, liking the EXACT production built home and not wanting any upgrades or changes. In this post, I’ve simply tried to highlight the differences and the reasons why we decided NOT to take that route. With that said– in the end, only YOU can determine which route you want to go and what level of stress you will be able to handle. Building a house with a production builder will probably drive you to your limits. It will test your strength and the strength of your family. Building a CUSTOM HOME—well, I do feel that it’s just ANOTHER level of crazy. If anyone who has ever built a true custom home tells you otherwise, THEY ARE NOT TELLING YOU THE TRUTH. Chances are, if this is the case – they have probably been in their new home for years and they FORGOT. I repeat— they FORGOT!!! I kind of equate the home building process to the newborn phase of child rearing. I’m CERTAIN that there is NOT a single person in the universe that will tell you that waking up with a newborn 5 times a night for a year isn’t THAT BAD. Yes, I know, it’s worth it. BUT it’s hard! It’s really HARD! Not to mention that it’s also exhausting and emotionally draining. Will you ever forget those newborn days? KINDA. But not really. HAHA. So, I know after that rant you are wondering… if the custom process is so INSANE, why in the world would anyone– including myself, decide to go this route? I talk a lot in my blog posts about GOING WITH YOUR GUT. You have to go with your gut in regards to this decision as well. NOTHING is worth your sanity or destroying your family. And with that said, here are the determining factors as to WHY we WENT CUSTOM.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT BUILDER: WHY WE DECIDED TO BUILD A CUSTOM BUILT HOME INSTEAD OF A BOX BUILT HOME
1. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
There are all levels of production builders today ranging from manufactured homes to luxury builds. You may have already read some articles or blogs online telling you that selecting a production builder will probably save you money in the end. How do I know this? Because I also read the articles! These articles want to convince you that by building with a box builder you will get a bigger or better house for your money. And this is when I’m going to DISAGREE with all those articles and say something I AGREE SO STRONGLY with. In the home building process, it’s really quite simple: You GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. My advice is regardless of which route you choose, FIND OUT WHAT YOU’RE GETTING for your money. I met with several box builders and I did thorough research before I made my decision on which avenue I wanted to take. Here are some questions I asked. Do you use 2×4 or 2×6 when framing? (It makes a difference and one costs more.) What kind of insulation? You do have to heat the home. What HVAC system? What does the lighting plan look like? What window brand and series? Are there windows on the sides and back of the house? What does the back elevation even look like? What kind of cabinetry is used? Do they use FLAT paint in one color? What are the floor finishes? and the list goes on and on….Once you have determined what you are getting for your money, you can then determine if you are okay with the options they provide, or if you need to UPGRADE. Then, the next question to ask the box builder is this: How much does it cost to UPGRADE? and this brings me to Reason number 2 of why I went custom…
2. I WANTED TOO MANY UPGRADES.
I am picky. Okay– I’m VERY picky. (Don’t ask my husband! 😍😳🤪). I do research. I research everything to a fault. My decision of going custom was largely due the fact that once we met with the box building companies, the upgrade charges I was acrueing due to all the changes I wanted were outrageous! And to top it off, the changes still weren’t EXACTLY what I wanted. I have dreamed up special interior finishes and details for this home. I really wanted custom cabinetry and built in’s in some spaces. I wanted bonus space above the garage. I wanted a mud room. Etc. Etc. Bottom line: I wanted too many extras to make the box building company meet our home needs and wants.
3. I DIDN’T WANT TO PAY CHANGE/WORK ORDER FEES.
Ask a production builder what happens if you want to change a finish or a selection half way (or at the start) of the construction process. There are fees that will probably be charged and these fees are HIGH. I know I made the right choice with going custom, because I have made more changes throughout the construction process than I care to admit. I can’t imagine the additional charges I would have accrued, or worse yet, having to live with things I knew I wanted to change. Everything on paper looks different than when it’s built, and odds are you could want to make some changes too!
4. I WANTED A SPECIFIC BUILDER.
Come back for Part 3 of my Blog Series to find out why! In the meantime, here are some things to think about. Does the production company have one builder? Who is the Construction Manager? Will you be able to work with all the different subcontractors they have selected for you? Does the box builder care about their work because it doesn’t directly reflect on their name? These are all questions for which you need answers.
5. I WANTED MY OWN ORIGINAL UNIQUE HOME.
I read this on a forum once and I won’t soon forget it. Family #1 built a production home in a development. They were in their house for a year when the lot beside them sold to Family #2. This family built the SAME EXACT production home right next door. I kid you not- Same house, same elevation, same color of finishes. This specific box builder did not care. They still built the house. Now, I can’t imagine that anyone would want to build the same exact house as their neighbor. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery but this is just UNACCEPTABLE. (Side story! I’ll never forget Easter Sunday when I was still living at home and my sister was recently married and no longer living in our house. We show up at church in the same exact silver suit. My sister laughed. I begged to go home and change. Haha!). If having the exact same house as your neighbor may bother you, ask the company what the policy is on this– and if they don’t have one, you may want to consider another builder.
6. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BUILD A CUSTOM DREAM HOME.
See items #20-#50 on my bucket list. They all have to do with building a custom home. I have nothing against production homes. I think most of them are very nice homes. Most have practical, well thought out floor plans and have beautiful front elevations. I have just always wanted to build a custom home. I wanted to select the finishes and create a floor plan from scratch that was exactly what our family wanted. I am just so thankful and feel so blessed that after so many years of living in our little brick ranch home that our dreams are coming true!
7. I WANTED TO PROVE TO MYSELF THAT I AM MADE OF STEEL.
Just kidding. Oh no! Nevermind! I’m actually not kidding. I do feel like a stronger human being than I was before I started this home building process years ago. I do feel that when push came to shove, the box builders in my area that I met with, just didn’t have what I was looking for. They did seem to pride themselves on making the home building process seamless and easy though. I’m sure it’s NOT quite as easy as they made it sound, because I know regardless of which route you take you have setbacks and obstacles to overcome. But, I do believe that if you choose to build a production house, you will have less decisions to make, it will probably be completed quicker, and isn’t overall as stressful! I, on the other hand, will continuing fighting to finish our custom home. I will take it one small step at time (a small step is better than no step, RIGHT!?) and I really hope you’ll continue to follow our journey to the completion of #thelaydenlegacy. I’m having so much fun sharing this journey with you. As always, if you have any questions, drop a comment below. Make sure you follow me on instagram for more sneak peeks and be sure to subscribe by email. The links to do this are at the top of the page. I’ll see you at the finish line! My plastic trophy is awaiting! 🤪😂🏆