The differences between a custom builder and a project builder

 In Building advice

Building a new home is one of the biggest investments that most people will make in their lifetime, so it’s important to make the right decision when it comes to selecting the right builder.

We often meet with clients who are trying to decide whether to build with a custom home builder or a project builder. This can be a tricky decision for some, so we wanted to help explain the difference between the two and offer a few things for you to consider.

Graph Residential is what is referred to as a custom home builder, which means we build unique, one of a kind homes that are specially designed with you in mind. We work with you and an architect to create the home that you’ve always dreamed of, on your unique block, at an affordable price that suits your budget. Generally, we choose to only construct a small number of homes per year which allows us to offer a much more flexible and personalised service to our clients.

On the other hand, project home builders build homes from their fixed range of existing designs. These homes tend to be more mass produced and are built often in the hundreds or even thousands per year. They offer few, if any, alterations to the original design; and any changes tend to come with a big price tag as it interrupts their system for them to have an individual focus.

So which builder should you choose to help you build the biggest investment you’ll ever make? Here are some of the major differences and considerations when choosing between a custom and project home builder.


Flexibility, choice and customer service

Project Home Builder Limited options for specification levels

Custom Home Builder You’re in control – what you want is what you get

Flexibility, choice and customer service are probably the biggest advantages of selecting a custom home builder. You’re not going to be just another number, or one of the hundreds of current clients; you’ll get to know the builder personally and they’ll get to know you.

Additionally, custom home builders aren’t limited to certain levels of specifications – they can work with you and your architect to source bespoke products to suit your unique home. They also offer the flexibility you may need throughout your build if for any reason you may change your mind about a design decision or a finish.


Layout and design

Project Home Builder Offers minimal designs and changes

Custom Home Builder Works with you and your ideas to build a home that’s unique to you

Project home builders generally have a range of set plans and designs, and have to charge extra to make changes to these. This is a good option for those who don’t want to design their own home and are just happy to select from a floorplan in a brochure.

Custom home builders work with you to build a home that you’ll love, and obtain the architecturals and engineering to suit. A benefit of a custom builder is that you can choose exactly what you like and incorporate it into your new home. Working with an architect and a builder to design your home also means that the plans will belong to you.

With a project home, not all options or variations will meet all of your lifestyle requirements, but by working with a custom builder and an architect, they’ll consider the placement of windows, the direction the breezes blows and where to put your deck to optimise the morning sun, all specific to your location. They can move or shrink rooms, and even reduce bedroom sizes to allow for a larger kitchen.



Project Home Builder Comparable

Custom Home Builder Comparable

When you build a project home they generally have a set advertised price you can see before you start choosing your package, as well as a set fee for extra inclusions such as ducted air conditioning. The base packages normally don’t include driveways, alfresco/decking, landscaping, air conditioning and sometimes flooring, and some packages may only include basic budget finishes such as tiling only in wet areas (not to ceiling), laminate benchtops and a limited range of accessories.

Custom home builders quote each project individually either based on the specifications and finishes you would like or based on your budget, in which case they can offer suggestions on where you can save money (by suggesting different design options, or more affordable finishes, fixtures and materials such as tiles or carpet options).

One of the biggest differences that sets custom home builders apart from project home builders is that they suit everything to the client.

Project builders also have a limited range of selections that you can choose from. This is due to their bulk-buying capacity at a standard price point. With a custom home builder the options are endless.



Project Home Builder Standard packages with optional upgrades

Custom Home Builder Tailor-made to suit you

Project home builders provide a standard design and then you pay for the extras such as your driveway and floor coverings, lights and power points – this is a good option if you’d prefer to finish them yourself.

When you work with a custom home builder you have the flexibility to do what you like – either a fully complete turnkey home, or any other stage before that.


Complexity of build (sloping block, narrow block etc)

Project Home Builder Generally don’t like to do difficult blocks, or charge a premium price

Custom Home Builder Build the home you want on the block you want

It’s common for some project builders to refuse to build on difficult types of blocks. A custom home builder generally accepts these types of projects and factors the conditions into the quote to give a true price indication to the client from the beginning. We have the flexibility to engage an architect and engineer to create a suitable design on most block conditions and ensure it’s compliant with the appropriate building codes. Custom home builders tend to be specialists in difficult blocks, because they’ve built to all kinds of conditions and limitations prior to your project.



Project Home Builder Depends on the builder

Custom Home Builder Depends on the builder

From our experience, the majority of project home builders ‘surprise’ you on the variation costs once the build commences. This means that if you change your mind, they will charge you an excessive amount to make a profit.

When you decide to choose a cheaper or more expensive product, we adjust the price accordingly on your contract. If you wish to carry out your selections before the contract is signed then it is a fully locked in price with no need for variations.



Project Home Builder Slightly slower due to volume

Custom Home Builder Slightly quicker due to volume

With a project home builder, the start of your build can often be delayed in order to be slotted in after the other builds they already have starting ahead of you. This can be made worse if something is delayed by a change, or approvals, and you can then be bumped further down the queue again.

Custom home builders are much more in control of when they can begin a project, and can be upfront with you about timeframes. Each project is managed more individually too, so any issues can be dealt with immediately, which helps prevent any delays once the build has begun.


The final verdict

As we mentioned in the beginning it’s important to do your homework before selecting a builder to build your dream home. The best piece of advice we can give is to compare apples to apples. Determine the type of home that you’d like to build and get prices for the exact same thing from your shortlist of potential builders. If you get a cheaper price from one of the builders you’re speaking to, ensure that you find out what they’re not including.

If you have a simple block and are happy with the display home you visited (starting with basic finishes) or brochure you flicked through in a sales office, than a project home builder may be the right choice for you. However, if you’re looking to be involved in the design of your own home – one that’s designed to your lifestyle and needs, with no hidden costs and a one on one relationship with your builder throughout your building journey – a custom home builder may be a more suitable choice.

What really sets builders apart is the entire process, the ease of the build, the relationship you develop with your builder and the flexibility to build a home that you’ll love. At Graph Residential, we can guarantee individual service to suit your needs, and you’ll end up with the home you have been dreaming of – one that’s been designed with you in mind.

Do you want to find out more about building a custom home? Contact Graph Residential today.

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