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choosing
your builder

by nat stevens

What is the difference between a custom builder and a project builder?

Custom home builders, Volume Home Builders, Project Home Builders, Kit Home Builders, Pre-Fab Home Builders, small Local Home Builders, Budget home specialists, luxury home specialists.... the list goes on.

You can waste months going around in circles talking to the wrong builders.  It helps if you know which are right ones to be talking to for the type of home you'd like to build.

volume builders

Volume builders are usually, but not always, nationally owned companies that have completely systemised their entire home building process. They utilise modern sales and marketing strategies to sell their homes.  It is a highly competitive market.   The main feature that attracts people to a volume builder is their nicely presented range of floorplans and their knockout display homes.  Volume builders work on a standard inclusions-plus-upgrade system where you can add features according to your budget. It’s a very simple option for people who want someone to take care of the whole process from start to finish and who are happy to have minimal exposure during the building phase. Volume builders generally advertise homes at the very minimum base price and offer upgrades in the form of promotional packages.  They often partner with land owners to market House and Land Packages which are advertised for a bare minimum price.  In most cases, packages are put together for demonstrative purposes only.  Unless the block itself is owned directly by the builder, you are free to purchase the block and put any house on it you wish and it can be built by any builder.  You can learn more about House and Land Packages here.

One thing to keep in mind when using a volume builder is that everything is finalised before you start.  Every single detail is set out right down to the colour of the paint on your walls.  Volume Builders generally won't allow changes to their floorplans without extra costs for the privilege and it's costly to make even cosmetic changes once you've had your selection consultation.  If you are someone who would like to be involved during the construction phase or who might like to improvise and make minor changes to things as you go, you might be better suited to a custom builder.

Working with a volume builder has many advantages, but you should also be aware of what the limitations can be. To help you decide whether a volume builder is the right choice for you, you should take following points into consideration:

PROS:

  • They have a large portfolio of floorplans to choose from.
  • You can visit display homes for some of the most popular floorplans.
  • The process is highly structured, predictable and systemised.
  • The paperwork, reporting and supplied documentation is often of an excellent standard.

CONS:

  • Volume Builders have a highly engineered sales process.  They know how to sell to you and many will only tell you what they want you to know.
  • You'll work with a team of administrators rather than the actual hands on builder.
  • What they choose not to tell you could be the things that blow your budget.  These things are known as hidden cost.
  • Volume builders generally only facilitate flat block builds.
  • Alterations or modifications to the floorplan can be extremely costly.
  • It won’t be straightforward to make improvised alterations once building has begun.
  • Display homes will include many luxury upgrades that can give you a false sense of what the home really costs to build.
  • The copyright of the floorplan is owned by the builder, meaning you can’t take their floorplan and have someone else build it.
  • Your options for inclusions are usually limited to the brands and ranges they offer.
  • You may not feel like the home is yours until the day you get the keys.

Working with a volume builder has many advantages, but you should also be aware of what the limitations can be. To help you decide whether a volume builder is the right choice for you, you should take following points into consideration:

PROS:

  • They have a large portfolio of floorplans to choose from.
  • You can visit display homes for some of the most popular floorplans.
  • The process is highly structured, predictable and systemised.
  • The paperwork, reporting and supplied documentation is often of an excellent standard.

CONS:

  • Volume Builders have a highly engineered sales process.  They know how to sell to you and many will only tell you what they want you to know.
  • You'll work with a team of administrators rather than the actual hands on builder.
  • What they choose not to tell you could be the things that blow your budget.  These things are known as hidden cost.
  • Volume builders generally only facilitate flat block builds.
  • Alterations or modifications to the floorplan can be extremely costly.
  • It won’t be straightforward to make improvised alterations once building has begun.
  • Display homes will include many luxury upgrades that can give you a false sense of what the home really costs to build.
  • The copyright of the floorplan is owned by the builder, meaning you can’t take their floorplan and have someone else build it.
  • Your options for inclusions are usually limited to the brands and ranges they offer.
  • You may not feel like the home is yours until the day you get the keys.

custom builders

Custom builders are generally hands-on local tradesmen who pride themselves on the personal quality and uniqueness that they can bring to your home building experience. When using a custom builder, the person who sells you their services is usually the same person who is building your home.  They'll be your go-to person from start to finish. Custom builders suit those of us who like the idea of having some level of involvement in the home building process, though that is totally optional.  A custom builder should delight in the idea of you 'popping in' to say hi to see how things are going.  It's a more personal experience where you should feel welcome to share in the excitement of your dream coming to life.

One of the greatest advantages of using a custom builder is having the ability to improvise and make adjustments along the way.  While it’s common for custom builders to have a small range of plans to inspire you, we recommend having your home designed independently.  Working with a designer or choosing from an extensive range of quality floorplans and having them adjusted to suit is the safest way to maintain control of your experience and your budget.  It gives you the freedom to take your home design to three builders and have your plans quoted.  If you use builders plans you are bound to use that builder as they own the copyright to their own plans.  You can't take the plans to be quoted from another builder and this can leave people feeling stuck.

To decide if working with a custom builder is right for you consider the following pros and cons.

PROS:

  • You work with the builder throughout the process rather than a team of administrators.
  • Ability to build a home from a floorplan you've designed from scratch.
  • Usually have a range of floorplans for you to choose from that you are able to amend to suit.
  • Commonly, the person who sells you the service will be the builder who actually builds the home.
  • Flexibility to choose inclusions and upgrades as required.
  • Flexibility to improvise during the build as required.
  • Option to be as little or a much involved as you desire.
  • Ability to visit on site and get to know the trade team.
  • Your builder is on call to you any time from anywhere.
  • The home will feel like yours from the very beginning.
  • You'll feel welcome to pop by anytime.

CONS:

  • Requires you to have more input.
  • When choosing inclusions you may not have one showroom for everything.  Instead you may need to visit a variety of specialty stores for things like flooring for example.
  • Personality compatibility plays a more important role.

in summary

nothing10b

Learn about the pros and cons of different types of builder so that you know which type of builder is best for you to work with.  Don't waste time talking to different types of builder as it will only confuse you.

CASE STUDY

nothing3b

How Josh wasted months chasing his tail talking to the wrong types of builders.

Josh contacted me when he was at his wits end trying to find a builder.  He’d already purchased a block of land so there was no backing out.

When I asked Josh about who he had already spoken to he gave me the names of three builders.  So far so good right?

But here was the problem… Josh had spoken to a volume builder who only builds on flat slabs (his block was sloping meaning he’d be up for significant site costs).  He also gave me the name of a luxury home builder (who’s prices would have blown his budget out of the water).  And finally, he gave me the name of a builder who specialised in home renovations (rather than new home builds).

Can you imagine the confusion!

He'd heard along the grapevine that these builders were 'good'.  But what he didn't know was whether or not they were 'suited' to his project.

What Josh needed to be doing was speaking to three custom builders who all specialised in building new homes.  That way, they would all have the appetite to build on his sloping block.  Plus, they’ll be more accommodating in meeting his budget and the chances are that they’ll also have a great range of floorplans for him to choose from and customise if required.

Had he understood the differences in the types of builders, he’d have saved himself months of confusion and stress.  Instead, he’d have been having the same conversation with the same types of builders all working to the same budget.  He would have saved himself the pain of chasing his tail wondering where he should be turning next.

quote

sep-head1

Acknowledging your confusion is the first step towards clarity

- Natalie Stevens

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