One of life’s most significant decisions, to build a home, is quickly followed by another of life’s most significant decisions: choosing who should build your home.
Almost all builders, if you’ll allow us to generalise, fit neatly into one of two categories: volume or custom.
Your choice between a volume builder and a custom builder will have a considerable effect on both how the construction process plays out, and what the end result will be. It’s wise, therefore, to make as educated a choice as possible; to ensure that you’ve considered all the pros and cons, and made a decision that’s best for your particular situation.
So, what are the differences between volume builders and custom builders, and which is right for you? Let’s take a look.
A volume builder is one who offers a range of pre-designed homes from which their customers choose. While customers can add customisations here and there, the blueprints and the bulk of the materials are set in stone, enabling the volume builder to maximise efficiencies and lower costs.
There are several perks that come with choosing a volume builder.
- Lower cost: With streamlined systems making the process as efficient as possible, you can expect to pay far less by choosing a volume builder. These builders get materials cheaper by buying in bulk, and you won’t need to worry about paying for a drafter to draw up plans.
- Faster process: Just as streamlined systems lower the cost, they also hasten the process. Practice makes perfect and having built your home many times before; you can expect a volume builder to complete the work in a quick time.
- Display homes: Volume builders will generally have display homes that you can walk through to get a feel for a layout before you commit to it.
- Peace of mind: Big companies have more customers, giving you more opportunities to hear other’s experiences.
Volume builders won’t be for everyone, however. There are a couple of things that these builders don’t do quite as well as their custom equivalents, which could mean that they aren’t the right choice for you.
- Choice: While most volume builders will offer a wide variety of pre-designed blueprints, the fact remains your choice is limited to their catalogue.
- Customisation: Likewise, volume builders will offer a wide array of customisation options, but these won’t be unlimited.
Custom builders do precisely what they say on the packet - build a house to your custom specifications, from the ground up. Custom builders are often local and independent, although there are larger companies in the game.
So, why should you choose a custom builder?
- Ultimate customisation: Provided the materials can be sourced, and the builder has the skill set, your new home can be built exactly as you see it in your mind’s eye.
- Personalised service: Your custom home will be personalised to your unique requirements and circumstances, and so will the service of your custom home builder - it has to be in order to get the answers that the builder needs to proceed with construction.
On the other side of the builder coin, the disadvantages of using a custom builder rather neatly reflect the pros of using a volume builder.
- Higher cost: With custom builders lacking the efficiency of those who deal in volume, and with the added need to pay a drafter, you can expect to pay far more for a custom home.
- Slower process: More consultation, more decisions to be made, specific materials to be sourced, like painting a work of art versus printing it, the custom process will be slower.
- Greater decision-making responsibility: Custom building a home isn’t for the faint of heart - you’ll need to be decisive, as plenty of questions will be coming your way.
- No display home walk-throughs: Without a display, home to walkthrough, you’ll need to be confident in the clarity of your mind’s eye.
Making an informed choice
As with any decision in life, the right builder will depend on your needs, wants, and situation. Before you lock one in, consider the following:
- Your budget: Speak with a lender to understand what you can afford. Volume builders are cheaper and also bring more exceptional reputations.
- Your maximum time frame: How long are you willing to wait for your home to be built? How long can you afford to rent somewhere else? If your time frame is small, a custom build may not be feasible.
- The builder’s reputation: Almost everyone who is disappointed in their choice of volume or custom builder is actually disappointed with the specific builder they ended up choosing. The importance of shopping around and reading reviews cannot be understated - you don’t want to end up with a company that’s unlicensed and uninsured, for example.
- Communication: Following on from the above, the experience of building a house is inextricably linked to the quality of the relationship you can form with your builder. Before you commit, ask yourself: what is this builder’s communication like? Are they clear and transparent? What does my gut tell me?
- A firm quote: Does the builder’s quote include everything? Is it fixed? Check that all customisations are in writing, ask for an explanation if prices can’t be set.
Volume or custom: which is the right choice for you? That’s a question that we, unfortunately, can’t answer. But by taking the time to understand the pros and cons of each, hopefully you now can.