Houston Custom Home Builders vs Semi Custom Home Differences

09:01 Jul 2018
custom home builders in houston

One of the most common misconceptions with aspiring home building clients is that all custom home builders are the same. This could not be any further from the truth. This common misunderstanding can create confusion and misdirection for the client efficiently reaching their dream home. Although premium custom home builders and production semi-custom home builders both offer residential general contractor services, there are significant differences in services, products and process offerings.

These residential general contractors dramatically differ in their approach towards the home building process and services offered before, during and after home construction. Understanding these differences will greatly assist an owner in avoiding a great deal of aggravation while saving you money and time.

Semi-Custom Home Builders

A semi-custom home builder is for all intent and purposes a production builder. They build homes from an library of shelf home designs that can be modified to meet the buyers needs. These are not one of a kind home designs built to the specifications of a sole owner, but rather a plan design that the builder is intending to duplicate many times. Many of these new home builders will advertise themselves as custom home builders.

Many of these home builders allow homebuyers to make modifications and product selections to the home they select. These home designs typically will include a model floor plan that may have some optional space changes. They will also have anywhere from 4 to 6 different exterior profile elevations.

The amount of changes that semi custom home builders will allow varies with each general contractor. Some will allow structural changes while others will not. That also applies for the exterior of the home. The extent of these modified changes allowed also has to do with how advanced the progress of a selected home is during construction.

Custom Home Builders

Custom home builders will generally construct one of a kind home designs. These may either be design to build or bid to build on your lot homes. The distinctive difference is that the owners design plans have never been built before. This creates a great deal more work for the home builder and requires a uniquely different process from design to move in.

The price of a custom home vs the semi-custom home has little to do with the differences between builders. It is the origin of the home plans and the actual home design and construction process that defines the differences. Although most Houston custom home builders are more expensive then semi custom production builders for a number of reasons. First the purchasing power of a production builder. They limit their selections to commonly used products that they receive better quantity discounts on. Secondly, they negotiate volume discounts from their subcontract labor contractors on the standard plan designs.

Although each of these home builders will build spec homes for sale, custom builders will typically be more agreeable to make structural changes to a home under construction then a semi-custom home builder. Another major difference is that a custom home builder will typically sell a buyer the land if the home construction has not started, or the land and home if under construction. The production builder will accept the contract to purchase, but will keep the title in their name until construction is complete.

custom home builders in houston

We will examine the major differences associated with each general contractors process;

Semi-Custom Home Builders Process

Plan Design : There is often little to no plan design associated with the production builders process unless requested from the start. Depending on the builder, they may allow interior changes to the homes floor plan but most likely will not allow changes to the homes profile elevations. The homes engineering has been previously completed as part of the original master design process. This stream lines the permitting and reduces the errors common with changing production homes during construction.

Product Selection : Most semi-custom home builders will have a design center that they use to assist their buyers in selecting home products. These products are often preselected with fixed unit prices. There may be a wide range of selections, but these builders refuse or discourage the use of products from outside sources. This practice is common among production builders to avoid future problems with availability and warranty issues.

Construction Phase : The construction process is similar between the two types of builders. The significant differences are with how each builder interacts with their client during the construction phase.

On Site Meetings : Both builders should arrange site meetings during the construction phase intervals for a variety of different agendas. Although it will vary for each production builder, there are typically 2 or 3 planned progress meetings on a home during new home construction.

There is usually a pre-planned meeting onsite before a home goes into the drywall phase. This is to assure that the owner has reviewed any pre-wiring needs and confirmed the proper preparation for special framing / needs for cabinetry or mechanical products. It also allows the owner an opportunity to make any last minute changes at a more cost friendly basis.

There also may be a site meeting after drywall to help the client visualize the home better than during framing. In most cases there will always be a walk through with the owner at completion. This gives the owner a chance to request minor items to be touched up and adjusted.

Custom Home Builders Process

Plan Design : The home design process of a custom home builder is much different than a production builder. In both the design to build and the bid to build methods a home designer or architect is involved to create a special one of a kind home design for construction.

The design stage is composed of a conceptual phase, which is often a hand sketch, with many owner questions and illustrated images to convey the ideas. Once achieved, the next step is the preliminary drawings phase. This is when floor plans and the homes profile elevations are revealed for the owners comments and approval. Generally the final phase is when the designer completes the plans and presents them to an engineer for structural and MEP drawings.

With the design phase completed, the home plan documents can be priced by the general contractor for construction. This event of requires the creation of product allowances for completion of the construction budget. This is very common for custom home clients because there are so many products required to be selected in new custom home construction. Most owners can not complete the product selections during the design phase.

Product Selection : The product selection is also much different for custom home clients than for a semi-custom home builders methods. Custom home builders rarely have a specific design center. More often they will make arrangements with their product vendors to meet and demonstrate a variety of the many chooses available. These vendors will normally be equipped with the product allowance amounts and will guide the customer through their options.

Sample Mock Up : Another major difference between the two home builders approaches is that during custom home building construction the builder will provide onsite mock ups that represent the actual appearance of the products selected. With the exterior selections it is common to create a large onsite sample board that shows the actual materials for the roof, brick/stucco color and stone features. This provides the client with a higher confidence in what the products they selected will actually look like.

On Site Meetings : The major difference between the two types of home builders are the services you receive from a custom home builder. The custom home builder provides a concierge service experience with far more attention focused on the home buyers personal needs during the design and construction process.

The onsite meetings for a custom home buyer are much more frequent and more involved then the production builders process. The custom builder is required to get the homebuyer involved at the beginning of each stage of construction if there are personalized needs. Although there are detailed plans that represent each phase of construction, a smart builder will request a client blessing each stage of completion to avoid misunderstandings.

Another significant difference of builder types is that the custom home builder is required to request shop drawings for products that are being prepared offsite. This provides the vendor who is producing an offsite product to take dimensions from the actual home under construction rather than from the home design plans. This provides a greater assurance of accuracy that the products will fit precisely.

So with these insights you can better understand the options you will have when it comes to making a decision which type of Houston home builder will fit your needs best.


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