What is a Custom Home and Should I Build One?
Explore the difference between custom and personalized when it comes to homebuilding.
June 6, 2022
The term “custom” gets thrown around a lot these days. Custom shoes, custom sofas, custom financial services, custom health care…the list goes on and on. But what many of these companies actually mean is “personalize” instead of “customize.” (Because Nike is not letting you redesign an Air Jordan.) And further, what does custom mean in the context of a new home? We’re going to explore the difference between custom and personalized; what custom means—depending on the context—and what these two terms mean for you.
What is a custom home?
So who is gatekeeping the term "custom" in homebuilding? Many builders use that term to describe their building practices or specific elements of the homes they build, without giving that term definition. It seems that the custom label is getting applied to more and more while delivering on less. In fact, many of the homebuilders that claim to be building custom homes aren’t even doing so.
Let’s take a moment to break down what a custom home actually is by definition. A custom home is a completely new, unique home designed by an architect in collaboration with a client. This usually also requires working with structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers, a general contractor, specialty contractors, individual vendors, interior designers and possibly more — who all come together to create your dream home. Hmmm… sounds a little exhausting.
Perhaps custom is an archaic approach to new home construction. After all, we humans have been building homes for a while now - so we should be confident in best practices at this point. We now have hundreds - if not thousands - of data points to reference, in order to create home designs that work for modern life: dimensions and sizing of spaces; programming and functionality; construction methods and materials; and even aesthetics. We understand a fully-optimized layout, timeless architecture and warm, inviting interiors.
So if we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to living spaces - why not apply what we’ve learned instead of starting from scratch every single time? You wouldn’t start car shopping by taking out a blank sheet of paper and sketching an original automobile design, would you? Ok, so let’s utilize that knowledge and build homes that are personal instead; homes that provide creature comforts and thoughtful details because they are designed by people for people.
What is a personalized home?
Most of us don’t have the time to devote to endless meetings with an architect, the emotional bandwidth to deal with all the (sadly expected) hiccups and setbacks from custom home building, or the budget to go for broke with one-off add-ons. Yet there has to be a way for the rest of us to become owners of a brand-new, personalized, optimized home without the traditional (and outdated) process and strict definitions of a custom home.
To us, a personalized home is the combination of the craftsmanship, building experience, and project management that a quality home builder should provide—not to mention the personal design choices that make your home uniquely yours. You don’t need to start from scratch to have a unique, personal home. We’ve done the time-consuming work of collaborating with engineers and architects and vendors and cabinet builders on the laundry list of decisions you would otherwise take on (on top of your normal everyday job/s).
With new methods, materials, and means for building homes, the options for what your home could look and feel like from the ground up are as varied as ever: consider tiny homes, shipping container homes, pre-fab homes, modular homes, and more. The look, material, and curb appeal of a home is a part of personalization, but not the whole story.
How much personalization is right for you?
The desire to put your personal touch on the design elements of your home exists on a sliding scale. Not everyone wants to break the mold when it comes to their home - given concerns around resale value and the challenge of furnishing such a drastically different space. Some clients want control over every inch of their home’s design (sorry, architects) and to customize every nook and cranny, while others prefer having to make fewer decisions, such as paint colors and maybe the tile for their kitchen backsplash. In both of these cases, each client is happy with their amount of personalization, each has customized their living space to suit their tastes to some degree. For each of these extremes - and the ample ground between them that builders can provide- there exists the right path to a personalized home.
The truth is, there are design concepts and theories of scale and proportion that are statistically and psychologically comforting when used in a home. One of the many benefits of building a new home is that the architecture, floor plan, and interior design, when you work with a quality builder, has been created for and adapted to modern life. This is simply a ‘customization’ that is being worked out on the backend ahead of time, without needing every client to know the ins and outs of architecture principles.
What can personalization mean?
With the way technology, communication, and fabrication is changing, and many more options available en masse to please varying style preferences; ‘custom’ is no longer the only way to be involved in the creation of your home. Personalization with a trusted builder who knows how to maximize its effect, while minimizing cost and disruption, should mean offering personal choice where it makes sense: for example, your preferred floor plan; adding optional square footage in select areas; the width and stain of your wood flooring; your exterior siding material; fixtures, paint colors, and more. Some builders will stop at floor plans, and leave your walls white and all your fixtures the same uber-trendy finish. Others might default to contractor-grade tile in every bath and base-level appliances.
At Homebound, we believe that personalization should truly make your home feel like YOU, meaning it should delight you not just with its sense of space and aesthetics, but the entire process in which it was brought to life.
How do you know you’re working with a personalized home builder?
Builders interested in having conversations and relationships with clients have ushered in the era of the personalized home - which is the wonderful combination of building efficiently and offering client choice. A personalized home builder should be judged by a few criteria:
- How does feedback factor into their process? We believe that the best home builders will listen to and gather feedback from their clients to hone their designs and understand the desires of the current buyer.
- A builder who takes into account the area where they build and the direct communities affected by their aesthetics is creating personalized homes that uplift a neighborhood, not slapdash projects that often leave more to be desired.
- And finally, a builder who comes to the table with optimized floor plans that work best on the lot being built on, options to augment those plans, design and interior selections to choose from, and dedicated project management.
Taking on the time and commitment and mental load of building a home is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - your builder should respect that importance and be empathetic, communicative, and responsive. We feel that it’s the right way, the only way to deliver not only a beautiful, high quality new home, but a delightful, simple process, as well, that makes you happy about how it all came together.
Should I build a personalized home?
We can’t tell you what to do, but we can explain the ways the best home builders will support you in your journey, should you decide to build. The process of homebuilding is changing and it’s never been easier to build a personalized home. In a recent national survey we undertook, the research shows that for just about the same cost, those who built a home were getting more square footage per dollar than those who bought an existing home.
With the housing market in an unprecedented state of low supply and high demand, buying a home may mean settling for something less than your dream home and committing to possibly costly and inconvenient renovation projects with a general contractor down the road. If this seems like more of a headache than time spent upfront creating your perfect home, it may be the right move to build.
Also consider the time spent house shopping, bidding, and possibly losing out on an existing home. With building a home, budgets do flex, but an experienced builder should bake in contingency and a percentage of overflow while keeping you abreast of any changes. That can’t be said for the dramatic nature of a bidding war, where emotions run high, you’re operating blind, and a winning offer could easily reach $100K over asking and before inspection.
The landscape of homebuilding is changing in many ways, from tiny homes and pre-fab builds that get set up in days, to the technology to build your home across the world in an app on your phone. What must also change is the concept of ‘custom’ homebuilding, as the traditional sense of the term has been blown out of the water. When master builders can combine full-service craftsmanship with interior design and customer care in the creation of a modern home while streamlining the building process to alleviate time, expense, and headaches, that sounds personal, that sounds simple, that sounds like something everyone would want.
Building better with Homebound
At Homebound, we understand the power of selecting the details of your home and strive to guide our clients to the best floor plan, architecture, interior packages, and energy plans for their unique lives. There is a better way to build that exists between ground-up custom and cookie cutter, undifferentiated, production homes; That way is Homebound’s way. Meaning, we’ve applied our decades of design-build experience to make our floor plans the best they can possibly be for modern work and life, chosen architecture styles that will stand the test of time, infused flexibility into every corner of our spaces, and offered personal choice at every possible turn. The benefit to you is higher quality materials, beautiful design, and delightful details at a price point below that of a custom-built home. Our current projects underway in Boulder County showcase the incredible personalization options we bring to the table.
We’ve taken our years of experience in luxury and wildfire rebuilding home construction to create a process so anyone, anywhere, can build a home. We encourage everyone at this pivotal point in the homebuyer/home builder journey to think about their wants, needs, stress level, time management, budget, and future in order to decide what’s best for them. Home buying or home building can be stressful. We’ve endeavored to make the home building process simpler, faster, and more transparent. Let’s get you home.