Building a new home can be a substantial, life-altering investment, and as with any decision that carries such magnitude, it’s best to consider all your options. Choosing your builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make. The design options you have, and the decisions you’ll have to make during the building process (or the lack thereof), all depend on who your builder is. Generally, the industry differentiates builders into two broad categories – volume builders and custom house builders.
Volume builders – also referred to as either project or display builders – are oftentimes large, established companies that can complete over a hundred build projects within a year. In order to achieve this efficiency, they stick to building a fixed range of existing designs which their customers can choose from.
On the other hand, custom house builders are willing to work closely with their clients in order to create and build new designs that fit individual tastes. Due to this more personalised approach, custom builders tend to work on only a handful of build projects per year.
So, now that we’ve got the basic introductions out of the way, here are some major differences between volume builders and custom house builders that you should be aware of before making a decision.
Though, at first, the terms ‘customising’ and ‘custom building’ may seem similar, in many ways it encapsulates the key difference between volume builders and custom house builders.
Choosing a volume builder will limit you to customising, meaning you can only make slight alterations to existing design plans. These alterations themselves are more than likely already predetermined by the builder, restricting you further to only being able to choose from these. As an example, a particular floor plan might have two bedrooms and a bath; you would have the choice of converting one of the bedrooms into a study if you prefer. It’s a bit like a rubix cube, you can mix and match different variables according to your preference, but there’s no way to add anything extra – like say a third bedroom into that floor plan.
Conversely, custom building begins and ends with you, the owner of the house in mind. It’s by far a more collaborative process between the builder and yourself, where satisfying your personal requirements and tastes act as the focal point of the designing process. The builder, along with an architect, will sit down with you to figure out what these requirements are exactly. Based on this, design plans are presented to you, and you are free to change these around as you like. This also means that the design plans of your house actually belong to you!
Interestingly, the site you’re building on might make the decision regarding your builder for you. If you’re looking to build a house but don’t own a plot to build on yet, volume builders will most likely offer you a block of land. This will almost certainly be a block that suits their pre-designed floor plans, and as such are generally located in suburbs and city outskirts. But what if you already own a plot or have an ideal building site scouted out?
It’s common for most volume builders to decline building on difficult terrain, as it generally requires a degree of customisation and flexibility that they are not willing to offer.For instance, a custom house builder might be your best and only option when building on a sloping block. In fact, many custom house builders tend to be specialised in building on difficult terrain, and can be instrumental in helping design a plan that makes the most of your unique building site.
If you are considering going with the volume builder route, it’s important to stay mindful of what optional features are and are not included with their basic purchasing plan. Most volume builders have display homes setup for you to inspect, allowing you to better understand what your home will look like, but note that this doesn’t exactly paint the most realistic picture. In most cases, features such as driveways, floor coverings, air conditioning and light systems won’t be covered by a standard plan. This does mean that volume builders make for a good option if you’re planning on building these features yourself.
It’s a lot more straightforward with custom house builders, as they will simply build what you want, all the while advising you on what the best options are.
Volume builders prefer to standardise all facets of the building process – from the building site, all the way to the final touches. Because of this, they are able to give you a fairly set advertised price at the start of the whole process – note that this doesn’t count certain extra features as we pointed out earlier. In addition to this, they often end with budget finishes, such as tiling being applied only to wet areas and a limited assortment of furnishings and accessories. Due to all these cost cutting procedures, volume builders are often the cheaper option, but cheap doesn’t always equate to value, does it?
Custom house builders will take individual specifications, terrain difficulties and building constraints into account before presenting a cost estimate. What’s more they will propose the best design plans and building techniques based on the nature of your budget. In essence, volume builders will offer cheaper prices at the cost of flexibility, while custom builders will help you utilise your budget more effectively while creating a home that is tailored for you.
Ultimately, the choice between a volume builder and a custom house builder hinges on what you want out of your home. If you’re not interested in getting involved with the design process and are looking for something standard, a volume builder might end up working better for you. However, if you are someone who has your dream house all planned out, and want it to be perfectly tailored for yourself and the family, a custom house builder is undoubtedly the correct choice.