There are three types of home builders in America today. There is the “high end custom home builder”, the “production builder”, and the “small, hands-on builder”. While there are variations and hybrids within these three categories, these are the basic types at work today. The trick for the prospective buyer is to identify which one is the best match for their pocketbook and home style demands.
The High End Custom Home Builders normally work out of expensive offices and drive new vehicles and maintain all the trappings of success and professionalism that the upper class feels comfortable with. They tend to be very good at what they do, but their overhead and expertise come at a high price.
A custom home’s plan is often drawn by an architect who spends a lot of time interviewing the customer, drawing rough drafts, and making revisions before coming up with a final draft. Normally, a professional designer will be part of the decision-making process involving colors and finishes. The customer usually secures the construction loan and land. The building process is always lengthy and requires a lot of focus on the builder’s part to assure quality and coordination. In other words, it is not something most new home buyers can afford.
What they can afford is some variation of a Production Home Builder’s model homes. This is the way it is now and always has been in modern America. In the old days Sears and Roebucks sold thousands of homes by way of mail order catalogs. There is nothing wrong with the system, it enables the masses to afford the American Dream. Customer dissatisfaction normally occurs because buyers often want and probably deserve more attention paid to their individual home.
The problem is not that Production Home Builders are not good at building homes that follow normal building procedures within their system. That is what they have become proficient at and chances are that a new home buyer will end up reasonably satisfied if they stick to the builder’s stock plans and options. The problem with most builders that build more than 15 or 20 houses a year is that they are not good at making changes outside their box.
Many Production Home Builders are aware of their limitations in customization as well as their strengths in production home building. The popular term “pre-sold home” is commonly used to get the notion of “custom” out of the buyers mind. The buyer is allowed to buy the builder’s product any time before completion and select from a list of options when possible, but it is the builder’s home until the customer pays for it with their final mortgage loan. It is a fair way of doing business.
Trouble often arises when Production Home Builders ignore their limitations and attempt to customize a home outside their comfort zone. Most Production Home Builders started their careers building just a few houses a year and were able to build anything that came along and so they reason they should still be able to even though they are no longer “hands on” and have to work through their staff.
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They also want to give their customer what they want and so they bend their rules to make the customer happy and get the sale.
The customer wanting special features or techniques in their new home are often frustrated with the Production Home Builder’s parameters. They would be better served to look outside the big new sub-divisions where Production Home Builders have all the lots tied up and search for the Small, Hands-on Home Builder. Some of these builders are new and may be on their way to becoming production builders, but the majority are seasoned builders who prefer to build as few as 3 or 4 houses a year. They are not interested in running a big business, but instead just want to make a good living doing something they are good at and enjoy doing.
They are not as easy to find, but every city has many of them and they have been building the American Dream far longer than Sears and Roebucks and their modern day counterparts. They are the craftsmen builders who are often proficient at several trades and have a firm grasp on all the rest involved in home building. Many began as laborers on a framing crew and spent years learning the carpentry trade before gaining the experience and where-with-all needed to build their first home.
While the High End Custom Home Builder takes care of the upper class and the Production Home Builders take care of the masses, the Small, Hands-on Home Builders are the ones taking care of the new home buyers looking for something in between. It is often a perfect fit because they need each other. The Small, Hands-on Home Builder needs the work these customers provide and they have more time to pay attention to each project because they are usually physically working on it and not running a large home building operation. The customer with special demands and desires needs the small builder who welcomes their requests for individuality and sees them as challenges to be carried out with pride and proficiency, resulting in profit for them and satisfaction for the home owner.