New custom homes in established neighbourhoods have intriguing details, just like the streets they sit on. Recent developments, however, abandon the uniqueness and diversity of these homes in favour of mass production. Builders are buying huge, empty lots outside of the city and filling them with houses made from set floorplans. Sales of both homes types are flourishing. These homes do not compete against one another: rather, we see that they can co-exist, each occupying a different niche in the market.
The main reason people choose production homes over custom homes is cost. From the floorplan to the materials, a custom home is tailored specifically to its owner — and specifics mean money. It’s simply less expensive to develop a production home. Subdivisions are generally built on raw land outside the city, which costs considerably less than land in the city. It’s also easier to stay within a budget when buying a production home, says Tiffany Hallatt of Foram Developments/Hyatt Homes. “With custom homes, if there are unanticipated expenses from delayed work, wrong materials, et cetera, the homeowner has to finance all the mistakes. But in a subdivision, the builder is responsible for all problems and the consumer only has to pay the agreed price of the house.”
As well, custom homes are generally infill, which has more building constraints. The developer needs building permits, zoning permits and sometimes demolition permits. Every time you want to make changes to the property outside the zoning laws, you have to apply to the committee of adjustments,” says Eli Donenfeld, site supervisor for custom home builder Halee Homes. “If it’s a small change, generally it won’t matter. But let’s say it’s something big, like combining three lots and building one massive house. This is when the neighbours can complain, they can say that it ruins the look of their neighbourhood, blocks out the sun. And the further you are into the city, the stricter the zoning laws are.”
Since the land on production homes is generally bare, there are no neighbours to oppose plans and no need for a demolition permit. Furthermore, the only municipal approval required is a site plan approval and a building permit.
Additionally, many production homes can be built quickly because all the supplies are already on-site. The turnover for custom homes is much slower, with only a few homes completed per year on average. Since an infill space is much tighter, it’s harder to get trucks and supplies onto the site.
Also slowing down the process is the buyer. For a builder, tailoring houses to each purchaser’s needs can be a long process. With production homes, there is no consumer to allay, so building time is much quicker.
Despite the higher cost, many buyers favour custom homes because they feel that the house is better quality —since they designed it, it’s suited to individual needs and tastes. Additionally, the character added by the impressive, mature trees that shade the neighbourhood is unattainable in recently developed suburbs.
However, it’s important to recognize that the custom home route is not the only way to get a personalized home. Jason Pantalone, principal of Foram Developments/Hyatt Homes, says “it’s untrue that buying a production home limits your options. To start, there are at least five to seven models to choose from. Also, there are on average 75 to 200 homes in a subdivision, and so the consumer can select whichever lot type satisfies their needs — ravine, walk-out basement, cul-de-sac, walkout deck, and traditional lots. And once you’ve selected the house that you want, the entire interior is yours to personalize.”
The quality and uniqueness of a custom home makes it inimitable. However, building one can be a financially and emotionally draining process. For this reason, many homebuyers favour production homes, which are ready-made and economical.
Neither type is superior; both are incomparable as each is suited to a different need. So to all new home buyers, whatever your budget, time and patience will allow, you can find a home that you love and can make your own.