The Confusion About Custom
OK, so the other day I went on a popular search engine and keyed in “Custom Home Builders”, and WOW…was I shocked. I couldn’t believe how many tract/production home builders now consider themselves to be “custom” these days..
For those of you who are new to building and/or selecting a builder, you "generally" have two main philosophies when it comes to home builders and how they operate.
The first represents a major portion of the market, they are known as the tract or production type of builders. Today, many of these builder's are using the phrase "Custom" liberally throughout their marketing campaigns (like with Google web optimization), but I'm not so sure that tract/production housing should be defined as "custom". Tract/production home builders are usually set up for high volume production of standardized homes. Generally, they have a set of standardized floor plans that they build from which can only be tweaked by the homebuyer before construction begins. These tweaks can sometimes fulfill a client's need to feel as if there was a “Customization Experience” with the builder's standardized plan. These builders can offer a good home that will meet all of the current building codes for some pretty reasonable pricing. Prior to launching CastleRock Custom Homes I was employed and in management for two of the larger tract/production type of builders. It was a lot of fun having my sales staff and I watch all of those homes go up in a relatively short timeframe. I mean were talking some serious volumes of between 200-400 homes a year!
The other type of builder is known as a Custom Home Builder. These builders are generally smaller sized companies with much lower overhead and staff. These companies might build anywhere between 3 and 20 homes a year and probably wouldn’t ever build the exact same home twice. With a good custom builder, the home's design will generally begin with either a concept or perhaps nothing more than an idea and blank sheet of paper. No matter where the design begins, the home will have to be a one of a kind with unique features that are centered around the clients and how they live. Their contractors are usually also smaller companies who enjoy change and challenges in the field. This makes the construction process much easier for everyone involved because change and uniqueness is anticipated and thrived upon. With builders like CastleRock, you’re also working directly with the ownership team throughout the entire process. I often joke with our clients during the interview process, when a decision needs to be made by CastleRock, you’ll never hear Jake or I say, “let me check with the boss and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days”. Companies like ours are lighter and important decisions can be made in a more timely manner.
Now given the vast differences between these two types of philosophies, I’m sure you can understand my concern with so many builders calling themselves “Custom” these days. I’m not saying that the waters are getting muddied here. Quite frankly, they’re not. I mean you are what you are as a builder, it’s the claims I have concern with. So, in effort to help home shoppers realize some of the differences, I put together two simple questions for you to consider while attempting to discover what kind of builders you may be working with.
Cabinets- Ask your prospective custom builder what type of cabinets they use. If they mention a particular brand versus a local woodshop, well…. I’m not sure you’d want to consider them as a custom builder. You see these mass produced “brand” type cabinets come out of a box, are prestained and prefinished on a factory line (which means they only come in certain colors), and only come in certain dimensions. The question to think about here is how can you custom design a gourmet kitchen when you’re held hostage to only certain sized cabinets? Not to mention, with a locally "hand crafted" custom made cabinet, the quality and appearence will be much different and the color options are limitless. (For examples of these cabinets, please click on our “Finished Homes Gallery”.)
Other Millwork- You can also inquire as to the type of millwork options that you may have as a potential client. Doors, fireplace mantels, window casings, and moldings are usually limited, standard, prefinished type of items for production builders. You may only have one or two types of options for these items, and the fireplace mantels are usually the same ones that you could buy at a local home improvement store. Now as for custom home builders, we usually build many different styles of homes. From Traditional, to Contemporary, to Craftsman, to French Provincial, our clients will generally want the interior style (doors and millwork), to match it’s exterior style. This really isn’t possible when you’re limited to only a couple of different colors and styles of traditional millwork. A good custom builder will have many styles of doors, window casings and molding for its clients to select. Even our fireplace mantels are custom made for each client’s unique style. Not to mention, all of our woodwork (including the custom cabintes) are hand stained and finished to perfection on site by true craftsmen. We also have an endless array of stain colors to choose from, all of which are custom mixed to our clients satisfaction, one home at a time.
Now there are obviously more items that would help a perspective buyer distinguish between these two groups of builders, but I think you get the idea here. The questions I would encourage home shoppers to think about are; do they really want a custom home, or, do they want a volume builder to build a custom floor plan with that builder’s standard, prefinished, everyday items in it? They should also consider what type of experience they want in the field during construction too.
CastleRock is a Custom Home Builder. Have you ever watched those popular TV Reality shows like “American Chopper” or “West Coast Customs”? Let me tell you that what those guys are to bikes and cars… CastleRock is to homes. Totally custom, one of a kind structures with an incredibly high attention to detail.
If you would like to tour one of our Castle Creations to see the difference a true custom builder can make, feel free to contact us to set up a tour.
Craig Kasianowicz (Co-Founder)