One of the biggest challenges and expense you will have in your life is having a home built for you.
This process, and your new home, can be very rewarding and something of great pride.
A vital decision is whether to choose a custom designed home or a project home.
Before we go into detail about the pros and cons of custom designed homes and project homes, know that both have their own merits. Understanding how either could meet your needs and budget is essential.
The three critical factors are:
Custom Designed Homes
Let us take a look what the pros and cons are in terms of the actual design process and outcome.
- Your designer will work with you to make your vision for your new home come to life.
- You can achieve a unique home that will meet your specific needs.
- Your designer will challenge your thinking and your “Client Brief”, to ensure your design maximises every opportunity and your investment.
- You will have a much greater choice of fittings and fixtures based on what suits the design.
- You can request passive energy design solutions to reduce your energy demands and increase your energy efficiency.
- It is a good idea to include sustainability as a key design element. A better-quality building that lasts for longer is a good example of sustainability and cost effectiveness.
- Your designer will be either a building designer or an architect. (Related reading: the difference between a building designer and an architect)
- The design process will take longer.
- You will have more decisions to make.
- It will generally be more expensive.
- The selection of a floor plan can be quite time efficient as you are selecting a completed plan.
- You can select homes designs from a brochure.
- Your main areas for individualisation of your home are finishes, e.g. tiles and paint etc.
- A project home will be less expensive and the one you select may adequately meet your needs.
- You can see examples of the homes at display home villages.
- A company may decline to build on a property due to DA Conditions imposed, e.g. due to Bushfire Prone Land requirements, or difficult terrain e.g. steep-sloping land.
- The homes can have “left-over” spaces, or poorly utilised spaces for which you are still paying for at the company’s standard square meter charges.
- With a project home design, many plans do not maximise your specific site features or it’s orientation.
- Your home will not be unique.
The bottom line:
A project home will be less expensive than a custom designed home, and if it meets your needs, your style and your site, it may be best for you.
If a higher quality design resulting in a better appearance, layout and functionality is important to your needs, then a Custom Designed Home will be best.
Custom Designed Homes
- Your designer will make your vision work and suggest additional design options. Some options can make cost savings due to construction techniques or material selections.
- Your designer considers all the elements of your specific site and your family’s lifestyle now, and into the future.
- Your designer can work with almost any site. The undulating sites will require careful and considered design, suitable construction techniques and most likely increased costs. A flat site can be the easiest and therefore least expensive site to design for and build on.
- Select a designer who specialises in a home with your specific site requirements, such as, Bushfire Prone Land or a Heritage Conservation Area.
- It is advisable to obtain a construction estimate at the end of the Sketch Design phase, before the DA or CDC documentation is commenced. This ensures that the design fits within your budget before you give your approval to continue with the project.
- The costs of engineering requirements can usually be estimated at the Sketch Design phase, however final confirmation of these costs will happen after the engineer’s information is available.
- Your designer will often give you a fixed fee and provide an estimate of the other consultants’ fees, so you have an indication of your total costs.
- The price of a custom designed home will reflect the design and site restrictions like topography, access to the site and the DA conditions.
- If you want to increase the size of your project, then you will need to increase your budget.
- If higher quality materials are selected, this will be reflected in the price.
- The opportunity to have wide choices for fixtures and fittings is exciting however you need to keep these selections within your budget and resist the temptation to upscale everything.
- The design and construction will usually be more expensive.
- Project homes feature standard designs, and with the volume of homes built, the project home companies can achieve lower prices for bulk purchasing of materials and labour. This is how they keep the costs down.
- Project homes have set price packages to choose from. They will have set additional fees for extras within these packages.
- Most packages include an offer of a limited range of products, e.g. tiles and door handles
- The design and construction will usually be less expensive.
- Project homes generally suit relatively flat blocks that do not have site restrictions or extra regulations, such as for Bushfire Prone Land (high level fire ratings) or a Heritage Conservation Area.
- Advertised base packages do not include extras, such as driveways, patios, landscaping, retaining walls and site costs beyond a specified amount.
- If you alter/ personalise the design, or select other materials, then the stated costs will rise quite quickly.
- Project homes usually have strict contract conditions, which means you need to understand the extent of works, the exit clauses and construction duration.
- Any site costs during excavation that are unable to be foreseen will incur extra construction charges.
- Demolition and removal of waste is an extra expense.
The bottom line:
For a limited budget, the project home option may be the solution.
For a flexible budget, a custom designed home can offer a much greater range of design options, quality of construction and a unique home for you to enjoy.
Advertised square meter charges for construction costs are unreliable as they vary for many reasons, including style, materials and quality.
Your block of land may determine whether you need a custom designed home or whether a project home company will accept the project.
Custom Designed Homes
- You can choose your own builder, or a builder recommended by your designer.
- You can choose a builder who has his own team and a strong network of select tradespeople, giving you construction consistency, dedication and a personal commitment to your project. This leads to a higher quality of workmanship.
- The materials and construction techniques often exceed the minimum Australian Building Standards, which means a better-quality construction of your home.
- Look for a builder who can accommodate your site restrictions like topography, site access and the DA conditions.
- The price will be higher as there is no economy of scale.
- Unless your designer can assist you with the selection of a builder for a custom designed home, you will need to find and engage a builder yourself.
- The price will reflect the design, selected materials, access and DA conditions.
- The building must comply with the minimum Australian Building Standards.
- The project home designs often reflect economy in standardised sizes of windows and doors.
- They use standard construction solutions.
- A company may decline to build on a property due to DA Conditions imposed, e.g. due to Bushfire Prone Land requirements or difficult terrain, like steep slopes.
- It may take longer to construct as the tradespeople will have several other projects going on at the same time.
The bottom line:
The quality of the construction and workmanship will be the difference between a custom designed home and a project home. This in turn will positively impact the re-sale value and maintenance, especially if you intend staying in your home for some years.
“The design is likely to be the most important part of the building project that you are about to embark on.” (BDAA 2018)
- If your budget is more limited, a project home may suit.
- For a flexible budget, a custom designed home can offer a much greater range of design options, quality of construction and a unique home.
- If your site is sloping/undulation, a custom designed home may be necessary.
- If your site is relatively flat, then either option is possible.
- Choose a project home if the design meets your needs.
- If you want a home designed to suit you, your taste and your personality, then a custom designed home is best.