Should I use a project builder or a custom builder for my new home?
Figuring out how you want your new home to be built can be a daunting task, and it’s made no easier by the plethora of builders out there to choose from.
One big decision those looking to build their home have to make is whether to enlist the services of a project builder or a custom builder. There are benefits to each option, and what you ultimately decide will depend on your unique requirements, resources, and preferences.
We weigh up the options, going through the advantages and disadvantages of both project and custom builders, to make it easier for you to choose and start your new home journey.
What’s the difference between a project builder and a custom builder?
Project home builders (also referred to as volume builders) are companies that have a set catalogue of home designs, which they use to construct hundreds of homes each year. These companies usually have display homes you can visit in a display village, letting you see in person the end result, including the layout and quality of finishes.
Custom home builders are typically smaller companies that construct custom homes that have been designed specifically for their client. This means they construct a lot less homes each year. Although you can’t see display homes, working with the builder to design your home means you can still see materials, fixtures, plans and more in person, and can choose what you like best.
Comparing project builders and custom builders
How do the two compare on price, flexibility, design, service and time taken?
For most people, the decision over whether to go for a project builder or a custom builder comes down to price, and project builders win out in this regard.
Project builders are generally significantly cheaper than custom builders, as they have standardised designs which means they can maximise efficiency, save the hassle of redoing architecturals for every client, and ultimately build homes at a faster rate. They usually have access to a better rate on materials, given the quantity of homes they make. If the project builder does offer variations on their standard designs, then this may cost quite a bit more.
With that being said, custom builders can still work within a reasonable set budget, so it’s worth talking to a few different builders even if you think a custom home is out of your budget.
Unique designs are a custom builder’s forté. Custom builders pride themselves on their ability - as well as the ability of their designers, architects, and consultants - to bring your vision of your home to life. Because they’re not restricted to certain standardised designs, you can customise your home to suit your needs and desired aesthetic - even if these change during the process.
Meanwhile, choosing a project builder means you choose from a fixed range of floor plans, designs, fixtures, and finishes. There may only be a small margin for changes you want to make.
If you don’t have much of an interest in designing your own home, then a project builder may be a more suitable choice for you.
If the land you have or want to buy has unique features or challenges (such as an unusual shape, a slope, or landmark), then a custom builder can work with these in mind and construct a home that maximises all the features of your property. Even if there’s a particular view you want to preserve or maximise, a custom builder can help make that happen.
Project builders often have designs that fit different block sizes and shapes, including narrow pieces of land, however they can’t always work around any unusual or unique features of your block.
Because project builders follow an off-the-shelf design, they’ll have made the same homes many times before. There’ll be a lower chance of having hiccups along the way with a project home, and so it’ll typically be constructed much quicker than a custom home.
Service varies depending on the builder - you’re not guaranteed “better” service if you choose a project builder over a custom builder, and vice versa. Custom builders do, however, typically offer more contact, as constant communication is integral to a custom build. With a custom build, you’ll generally have ongoing site meetings and discussions on design ideas. Because you’re not one of potentially hundreds of different clients, you and your builder can have more of a relationship.
Read reviews to see the quality of service
While project and custom builders differ in terms of how much contact they usually offer, the quality of service varies depending on the builder. The best way to find out the quality of a company’s customer service is to read reviews of home builders. Reviewers on ProductReview.com.au discuss everything from customer service to the transparency of a company and how satisfied they were with their home.
Other things to consider
Many project builders offer house and land packages through their relationships with developers. Custom builders generally don’t offer land, however they do take care of site preparation ahead of construction.
If you have preferred tradespeople you want to work with, a custom builder will also likely be more open to working with them, as project builders usually appoint their own.
Project builders vs custom builders: pros and cons
The bottom line
Project builders and custom builders offer two different and distinct services. What you choose will largely depend on your budget, your land, and how involved you want to be in the design process.