Slab to Shingles Series ~ Custom or Spec Home?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Beam & Branch Realty TREC #547752

If you have made the decision to purchase a newly constructed home, in most areas, there is a choice of determining if you will buy a custom home or a spec home. There is a difference. Let's identify these two types of new construction:

CUSTOM HOMES - These projects consist of one-of-a-type homes. These are not mass-produced homes. Custom home builders work individually with an owner and usually are working with a floor plan that is unique to that owner. The owner will work with the builder in choosing every detail, every product, and every aspect of the home. 

Building a custom home will usually take longer. The owner has their own land or lot and will choose their own builder. It is important to meet and interview many builders prior to choosing the right one for you. Several factors should be considered:

  1. Recommendations - Talk to the builder's former clients. Does the builder communicate effectively? Does the builder keep their projects moving? Do they maintain and keep a great group of sub-contractors? Do your homework prior to making this important choice.
  2. Job-site Condition - Believe it or not, the condition of a job site is very telling. Now, of course, there are various stages of construction that cause a messy site. The true test shows when the builder insists their contractors are cleaning up their mess as they go and that dumpsters are being utilized.
  3. Personality - You will be in a relationship with a custom builder for possibly up to a year. It is imperative that you like the builder and can work with them. This is another reason to interview many.
  4. Fiscally Responsible - This may be an area that is a bit more challenging to determine. However, this is an area that is of major importance. How does the builder stay on top of paying sub-contractors, use the money draws responsibly, and are all bills paid prior to closing? Again, asking these questions and possibly meeting with the local banker is needed. 

A custom home is a massive undertaking and a financial investment. When you have taken the time to really investigate, question, and interview, you can feel that you have made the very best decision. Take your time.

SPEC HOMES - There are typically more spec homes to choose from when you are in the new home construction market. These builders can either be well-known, national home builders, or, are unique to a specific area. These homes can be what is called quasi-custom homes or is fully production only. 

Quasi-custom homes mean production builders who allow for various changes and selections throughout the build. A true production builder simply builds the homes with no changes allowed. Of course, depending on what stage a home is purchased during construction, will depend on if any changes can be made. 

It is important to understand that you will pay less for most spec homes because the builder can build more homes quickly and efficiently when they use the same plans and materials over and over. Therefore, in order to keep costs down, selections will be limited. Don't expect a spec builder to turn their product into a custom home. If they do, you will be the one paying for the upgrades.

Walk these neighborhoods and go through as many homes as you can. Look closely at the various stages of building. Talk to neighbors who already live in these homes. What system does the builder have in place for warranty issues?

Building a home can be stressful. Therefore, going into the process fully aware and prepared can help lessen the stress. Take your time when making this decision.

Having an experienced Realtor® by your side is essential. Our agents at Beam & Branch Realty are ready to walk through the process of choosing a builder. They will be your advocate from start to finish.

Check out these previous posts in this Slab to Shingles Series:

New Home Construction

Identifying the Land

Choosing a Builder

A Clean Jobsite



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Comments (9)

Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

this is great info and important points of distinction - but common theme - do your research and do it thoroughly! 

Feb 02, 2023 07:30 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

You've got it, Lise Howe - sadly, many miss this all-important step.

Feb 02, 2023 08:06 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

We have a Custom Builder in our Development- no two homes will be the same . A lot of Buyer Agent needsto tell their clients to prepare their wants and needs and have some vision as to type of home ( before they take an hour of a Builders time ). 

Feb 02, 2023 08:26 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Hello Dr. Paula McDonald - another great explanation of the new home-building process.  

Building a custom home is what my friend is doing.  They bought the land. Then sourced an architect, and builder.  It takes a long time.  But well worth building the homes of our dreams to fit our lifestyle and needs. 


Feb 02, 2023 08:30 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Lots of excellent information here, Paula. Research and due diligence will be the hallmarks of success with either a custom-build or a spec homes. It takes time but it's essential.


Feb 02, 2023 09:15 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Michael J. Perry - that is so true. I have seen many people who have no intention of building waste a lot of other people's time.

Feb 02, 2023 10:04 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

It really does take a lot longer Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist than most people expect when they go through the full, custom home experience.

Feb 02, 2023 10:05 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Hey there, Jeff Dowler, CRS - the due diligence process is so essential. A lot of homework and footwork are needed.

Feb 02, 2023 10:05 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Great information, Paula. Spec homes are so rare around here. It is so rare to find a lot upon which a spec house can be built. Lots of production building being done by national builders. Still...not enough inventory to meet demand.

Feb 25, 2023 05:19 PM