Developer vs Builder
Please note the video above showcase two finished properties we worked on. The first property is a Townhome which we are going to chat more about in this post and then another project we did in Sheboygan.
Anyways…we recently completed the design of this gorgeous new Urban Townhome for our fantastic client. Both the neighborhood’s lively vibe and the home’s scaled down spaces were great opportunities for us to get creative with edgy elements and unique finishes.
We frequently work on new construction projects for our clients and we know those projects can be a bit confusing and daunting for any homeowner. That’s why we wrote this post to simplify and explain the process of building a custom home. We also unpacked exactly how hiring an interior designer can actually save you time and money on renovation and new construction projects here.
But – as was the case with our client’s townhome – the process of building a production home with a developer is quite different than working with a custom home builder. There are some key differences and potential challenges you should be aware of if you’re thinking of building a townhome or a production home of any kind.
Your selections are limited
When you build a custom or semi-custom home with a builder, your options for layout, materials, and finish selections are pretty wide open. As long as it suits your needs, the requirements of the project, and your budget, you can have it!
But when you working with a developer, things are a little different. Production homes are planned and built in multiples, and the developer is largely focused on efficient use of his crews and other resources to get it all done. To that end, the developer assigns allowance amounts for each material and finish in the home and preselects only a few options from which the homebuyers may choose.
In other words, you might be presented with a few flooring choices, a couple of cabinet style and color options, a handful of lighting choices, etc. Why give you such tight constraints? For the same reason it’s faster and easier to cook the same meal for everyone in a family instead of asking each person what they want and preparing different meals for them all. It’s simply more efficient and cost-effective for developers to produce a quantity of homes with roughly the same finishes than it is to build those homes with a wide variety of materials and finishes – not to mention the time they’d spend waiting for all of those homebuyers to make decisions if they were given a lot of options!
And so you need to be prepared to not have a wide range of design choices for any of the construction selections in your home. But if you’re working with a well-known developer who has a solid reputation and great taste, the options they give you are more likely to be good ones. This was the case for my client, who worked with JDL Development who actually had a wonderful assortment of selections from which to choose.
To upgrade or not to upgrade?
That said, if your developer gives you standard options that just aren’t what you want, don’t worry – it doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck with them.
Some of the options you’re presented with will be “standard,” meaning their cost is accounted for in your allowance for that selection (countertops, tile, etc.). But your developer will also give you a few upgrade options. If you pick any of those, you’ll just have to pay the difference over and above the allowance amount.
By the way, it’s also worth mentioning that if the model home is what sold you on building with this developer in the first place, you should be prepared to need a lot of upgrades to make your home look similar since model homes often feature many if not all of the available upgrades.
However, it’s important to be thoughtful when making upgrades. Some are well worth the investment to get a higher quality material, but some simply won’t make enough of a difference in the look and/or functionality of your home to warrant the extra expense.
So how do you know when to upgrade and when to stick with the standard option? That very question is the main reason I think it’s wise to hire an outside designer when building a production home. While the developer will most likely have some form of design help in their design center, hiring your own designer means you’ll have someone who will help you from start to finish. During your design center meetings, you’ll be asked about things like making fixed finish selections; sizes, quantities, and locations of lighting; etc. When you bring along your own designer who knows the size of the chandelier for your dining room or has a swatch of your sofa fabric, it helps you immeasurably to navigate through all of the options while honing in on the right selections so your home will look beautiful and cohesive. A designer who’s well versed in new construction knows exactly where it’s important to spend extra and where it’s just fine to use a less expensive option without compromising the end results. They’ll help you put all of the design decisions together to create a home that looks cohesive and luxurious throughout. In some cases, a designer can even go off-menu to find materials for you from their own sources, although many developers have strict limitations on this. Even if they’ll allow it, be careful. Hunting down viable alternatives can take time and you don’t want to cause delays on your project unnecessarily.
Many design firms have service packages for these kinds of applications. At Mohindroo Interiors, we offer a Materials Selection Service, which is designed to help whether you’re building a production home or a custom home. Get more information about that and all our services here. Or contact us directly to talk about your project’s needs.
Construction on our client’s townhouse finished several months later than originally projected and unfortunately, that’s fairly common for production home projects. Challenges do arise on new builds and hiccups on other projects already in motion could delay your project’s start. It can be difficult for you when it happens, but it’s a normal part of the process so you need to be open to that possibility and try to take it in stride.
Production home projects are more susceptible to delays than custom builds simply because developers are managing a large volume of projects all at once. As such, their resources may be spread thinner, preventing them from handling problems promptly to avoid delays. It’s possible that at some point during your building project, an issue with your home could cause a delay, or tradespeople could be pulled off your job temporarily to work on problems deemed more pressing elsewhere.
The fact of the matter is that delays are going to happen with your developer project and you may have a few frustrations. But as long as you enter into the project knowing this from the start – and if you get a great designer to have your back – it will be much less painful when those things happen.
And regardless, as our wonderful client can attest, once you’re all moved in and able to enjoy your beautiful new home, you’ll all but forget about any delays or blips along the way!