When you’re shopping for a new home, you’ll typically find that custom homes and spec homes are two of the most prevalent options. How do they differ, and which one is right for you? We’ll give you a simple run-down so you can find out.
What is a Spec Home?
Spec homes are constructed and financed by builders. These houses are typically built on spec in the hopes that a customer will purchase them after they’re completed. These homes feature standard floor plans that are usually duplicated many times throughout a subdivision. The builder uses a generalized profile of the desired homebuyer and constructs a home around these guidelines. For example, the builder may design a home with empty-nesters in mind, or create a home with features that would typically appeal to young families.
Spec homes typically feature very neutral interior design features, such as white or beige walls and standard light fixtures. The homebuyer doesn’t have a say in most of these elements, since the home is finished or nearly finished before they purchase it. If the client does have customization options, they’re usually limited to paint and flooring.
What is a Custom Home?
A custom home is commissioned by the buyer, so the future homeowner is involved in the project from the very earliest stages. The client may visit the home lot before construction has even begun to assess the angle of the sun and other elements. This allows the homebuyer to determine the exact positioning and placement of the house.
Homebuyers have a great deal of say in the construction of a custom home. In this type of project, it’s the future homeowner who determines what the floor plan should be. The homeowner can also choose all of the details including paint colors, trim designs, cabinet designs, appliance models, and more.
The Process of Purchasing a Spec Home
Spec homes are faster and easier to get into because there are far fewer decisions to be made. Homebuyers can tour any number of spec homes with their realtor and choose the house that best suits their needs. You may get to make some minor customization choices, but the majority of the details and work are already finished.
Though buyers have less say over the features of a spec home, they do have more leeway in the price. The final cost of a spec home construction is often negotiable depending on the projected costs and bottom line for the builder, who has already invested in the project and now needs to make sure that it sells.
The Process of Purchasing a Custom Home
The construction process for a custom home is much longer and more complex than for a spec home. The homebuyer is involved in every step of the process. This is exciting if you have a solid idea of what you want, but it can be challenging for homebuyers who are less particular about what’s included in the home.
Couples may find the process of constructing a custom home challenging if they don’t agree on all of the features. You may find that you’re selecting everything from countertops to faucets to cabinet knobs. With so many options, buyers may find it difficult to put together all the myriad pieces of the home in a cohesive manner.
For some buyers, however, this is the ideal setup. Homeowners who have a keen design sense and distinctive needs will have complete control over the project, so they can pursue unique elements like a gourmet kitchen, a home library awash in natural light, or a home office with beautiful built-in bookshelves.
When buying a custom home, there’s no room to negotiate the cost of the finished project. You can make your customization options based on price as you go, but the final cost of the home isn’t something that you can talk the builder down on later.
The Timeline for Custom Vs. Spec Homes
Spec homes are often ready for move-in already, so homebuyers can get into this type of house quickly and easily. A custom home takes far more time to complete.
There are many factors that impact the construction time of a custom home, so you should speak with the builder for the most accurate estimate. However, as a general rule of thumb, a small home with around 1,500 to 2,750 square feet will take around five months to design and bid and a year for completion. A mid-sized home between 2,800 and 4,500 square feet takes up to seven months to design and a year for construction. A home that’s 5,000 square feet or more may take up to eight months to design and 14 to 18 months to build.
Which Home is Right For Me?
The final choice between a custom or spec home is a very personal one. A spec home may be the best option for you if you want:
- A home that you can move into quickly.
- A standard design that won’t require a lot of decision-making.
- A home that’s easy to resell in a few years.
Spec homes are often a great choice for busy families who have enough to manage with children and careers. There are many spec designs made with families in mind. These homes typically have great resale value, so they’re also well-suited to families who aren’t necessarily going to remain in the home forever.
A custom home is often the best option if you want:
- Full control over the home construction.
- Distinctive features built for your exact needs.
- A home that you will stay in forever.
It’s more difficult to sell many custom homes because they were made for such specific needs. However, this can be a dream come true for retirees who don’t plan to purchase another house in the future and simply want to finally have their dream home with all of the details they’ve always coveted.