Spec House vs. Custom House

Q: “What is the difference between a spec house and a custom house?”

Custom Manufactured House, Quincy, MA; Photography by Johnna Barry













“Spec” houses are designed by the developer to be appealing to as many buyers as possible, since they are built speculatively, while the custom home is designed by an architect to fit the specific needs and desires of the homeowner.  Assuming that the developer has a track record of high-quality construction, there is less risk to the buyer of the speculative house because they are able to see it completed before deciding to buy. There is more risk associated with a custom home because it is not built before the homeowner commits to it.  However, when you choose an architect with a great track record, that risk is mitigated.

The building of a custom home is a personal and joyous adventure shared by the homeowner, the architect, and a high-quality builder.  Generally, custom homes are “greener” than spec homes, although there are many developers who have made a niche market by building “green” homes. Custom homes can fit the priorities of the homeowners, so that more money is spent where important to the homeowner, and less where less necessary. Those choices are made by our clients, not by a developer who may have different priorities.

The journey can be challenging when building a custom home, but having the homeowner involved every step of the way means that the results are a dream come true for our clients!  And by the way, we have designed homes that are large and small, homes with big and small budgets, homes for extended families, and homes for one person. You don’t have to be a gazillionaire to do a custom build.

Another model is more of a hybrid.  One of our clients took our design and had most of the house built off-site in a factory in Pennsylvania.  Although this saved some risk, it was pretty scary waiting for the house to pass Massachusetts energy code review while it was in the factory in another state. It turned out that it did not pass the blower door test at first and it was fixed while still in the factory! Pretty cool overall. The house was transported as pre-built “boxes” that were assembled on-site.  The exterior siding and porches, and the interior flooring were completed on-site. This process saved the client time and money (we estimated about 6 months and $90,000).  Check out more photos here.

Don’t forget the renovation of existing homes as an option; we have renovated so many homes that have helped the homeowners stay in their neighborhood and reuse their existing home in a new way that reflects how they want to live. A custom home does not have to be a new build.

Are you interested in learning more about planning a custom or customized home? Please connect! You can take advantage of our low-cost, no obligation initial consultation that can really help you launch your project.

Custom Manufactured House, Quincy, MA; Photography by Johnna Barry

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