What are my options if I want to build a home?

  • There are various home options to choose from all offer different advantages based on your needs
  • The location of your ideal home situation will play a role in which options you can choose from or will be best for you
  • Your desired timeline for the project to be completed will also have an impact on which options you can choose from

What Are My Options If I Want To Build A Home?

The time has come for a major upgrade to your living situation. Maybe you want to move due to a career change, the need for better schools, a growing family, or just plain can’t stand where you’re living now. Maybe the layout of the home is keeping you from entertaining and having friends and family over. Maybe you’re living with the previous owner’s less than ideal design choices or are afraid to think what kind of work was done prior to you moving in by people who had no idea what they were doing. Maybe you’ve had enough of the endless maintenance and find it hard to sleep at night since you know your house might get water in the basement. Whatever the case, if you’re considering building a new home and are curious as to what your options are, we are happy to help guide you.

In this article, we’ll break down the main options available to you if you’re considering building, and give you a series of questions to ask yourself that will help guide you towards the best decision based on your needs, budget, and situation.

To help prevent information overload let’s start with paring down the high-level options to the following:

  • Large-scale remodeling (gut rehabs and/or additions)
  • Buying a new construction spec home
  • Purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder
  • Building a custom home

Let’s take a look at why you should start with these four categories and what defines them.

Remodeling, Gut Rehabs, & Additions

Why is remodeling on the list of options if you’re considering building? Because remodeling is actually a viable option if you need an upgrade to your space. We are not talking about a simple kitchen or bathroom remodel or small upgrades to your home, we are talking about major improvements that transform your old space into something completely new.

Doing a gut rehab or putting a new addition on your home is a good building solution if you like the neighborhood you live in, your house is structurally sound, and you don’t quite have the budget for a new construction home. Remodels also generally offer a quicker turnaround time than building a new construction home. Some downsides to remodeling include limitations of what you can do with what is existing, quality tradeoffs that just can’t quite match up to a new construction home, and the pricing certainty of dealing with unknowns that cannot be seen until construction of the home has begun.

Buying a New Construction Spec Home

A new construction spec home is a home that has been designed and built to sell on the real estate market. These homes are specifically built with the intention to be sold for a profit. Since this home has already been completed, it offers the quickest timeline to move in and also a high degree of price certainty. While some people appreciate the fact that all the decisions have been made for them, others would prefer to be able to customize their new construction home. Other disadvantages for a new construction spec home include a limited choice for locations since you must take what exists and the chance of a low-quality build since in some cases, these homes are not constructed by a professional builder.

Purchasing a Home in a Development Community from a Production Builder

Where a raw piece of land once stood, is now a neighborhood with a somewhat homogeneous cluster of new construction homes. A new construction home you’ll find in a development is most likely built from a large scale production builder that is building multiple homes at the same time. While this option offers the benefit of cost and timeline efficiencies, there is a trade-off for a low level of customization options, limited locations, and the chance you may be potentially getting a lower quality build product. Some developments may also offer semi-custom routes, where there are more options for customizations but these will still limit exactly how the home can be designed. Families looking for more flexibility to design a space and style more specifically to their unique needs can sometimes feel like this option would be like hammering a square peg in a round hole.

Building a Custom Home

Building a custom home means you can get exactly what you want (most likely) where you want. This route has a longer timeline and is a little more expensive, but with the added time, cost and effort, you have the most control and are able to get a home that is just right for you instead of having to try to make sacrifices which you may regret down the road.  A good custom home builder will create an enjoyable experience for you while designing and building your home. You get more attention, and there is a lot of value in the experience and expertise they offer. Building your own custom home can potentially be worth it if you find it fulfilling to create something that is uniquely and personally yours instead of being limited by the amount of customizations of the other options.

Discovering The Best Path To Your New Construction Home

To know which avenue is the best option for you start breaking down your wants and needs and roughing out your desires for your home.

Five critical questions To help begin your new home build brainstorm:

  • What area do you want to live in?
  • How much customization do you want to be able to do?
  • What is your actual budget?
  • What is your timeline?
  • How important is quality to you?

What Area Do You Want To Live In?

How important is it to be in a specific neighborhood or school district? How important is it to be in walking distance to town or walking distance public transportation? The level of importance on your location needs will guide your decision when considering your new construction options.

The location might be one of the biggest advantages of completing a remodel project vs. the other new construction options. Maybe you fell in love with the neighborhood you currently live in and want to keep your kids in the same schools. Finding an open lot to build on, a teardown option, or a new construction spec home may be hard to come across while remodeling offers the benefit of either staying put right where you live now and renovating the space or finding another existing home in the area to complete a remodeling project on.

Building a custom home would be next on the list for getting into an ideal location while the location options of a spec new construction home and a home in a development community from a production builder will be more limited. Custom builders may have lots on hand that are ready to be built on. Some have off-market opportunities and insight into potential build areas, and others will even locate lots for you.

The location for a spec home is limited as you can only purchase one of these wherever it has already been built and that may not match up with your area preference. Especially in the Chicagoland area, if you want to be close to the city or even right by the downtown of a particular town, the chance that a new home builder in Illinois has a new development located close in proximity will be pretty slim. In most cases, these areas have already been significantly developed and offer little options for new construction developments in the most desirable parts of town.

How Much Customization Do You Want To Be Able To Do On Your Home?

The paradox of choice! For some, the idea of having to pick out all the design details for their home may seem like a daunting task while for others the prospect of being able to splash their own personal style all throughout their home is a dream come true. This all depends on your preference for control of the design and your want/need/capacity for making decisions.

With building a custom home, you will have the most control. The options are endless with most custom home builders since you will be giving input on each facet on your home’s design. With this option, you will be able to create something that is unique and just right for you and your family. The sky’s the limit (or rather, your budget is the limit) with design when building a custom home. You will be able to define the exact floor plan and layout, select all your colors, finishes, fixtures, appliances and more. In most cases, the level for customization will be similar for a remodeling project although there will be limitations of what you can do with what is existing,

If making all the design decisions does not appeal to you, purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder could be a good option since the customization options with this type of build will be quite limited. There may be a few floor plans or home models to pick from and finish options will most likely consist of a few color/fixture options. Most production builders will not permit the moving of walls or windows either. If you want a unique home, this option is most likely not for you.

Some custom builders may also have a semi-custom route available as well. The semi-custom route generally offers a hybrid between a custom home build and purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder. This will be similar to building with a production home builder but ultimately offers more flexibility in terms of floor plan options and the ability to customize more of the features and finishes of the home.

The least amount of personalization will generally come with buying a new construction spec home. While there may be some options for personalization if you catch a home like this during the earlier stages of the construction process, this option more often than not offers very little in terms of making customizations.

What Is Your Actual Budget To Get Your Home Built?

It’s important to have the term “actual” here because although it is nice to dream, bringing those dreams to life has to be grounded in reality. Unless you’re paying cash, it’s recommended to get pre-approved by a lender so you can have an accurate understanding of what you can truly afford before heading down the potential wrong path based on your budget. Speaking with a lender early on will let you know just exactly how much you can build and how far you can push your ideas. It’s also important to take into consideration property taxes, down payments, and the true cost of living in your new home.

Remodeling takes first place in cost efficiency compared to the other options. For a similar-sized space, a remodel is generally going to cost less than a brand new construction home and give you more bang for your buck since there are many aspects of the existing home that can be saved and built upon.

Next on the list in terms of cost comparison is purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder. While it’s not the cheapest option available, the cost of a new construction home in a development will most likely be much more affordable than that of a custom home or even a new construction spec home. The combination of a production home builder and building in a development is all about efficiencies that result in cost savings through building these projects in bulk. There is very little design work done thus reducing the hours spent working with the client, with architects, and with permitting. Buying a new construction spec home may come closer in price to a home built in a development community but will cost slightly more in comparison as the efficiencies of building multiple homes in one location will generally be lost.

At the bottom of the list in this particular category is building a custom home. Building a custom home is most likely going to be your most expensive option. Think of a custom home as an individually crafted, one of a kind piece of work produced specifically tailor-fitted to you. The price tag and time commitment will both be on the higher end since it will take a serious amount of work to design and build a specialized, unique home based on your individual style, wants, and needs.

What Is Your Timeline For Building Your Home?

Your personal situation will dictate how flexible your timeline may or may not be. Things like the school year start date, aiming to host a large family gathering, and avoiding a move in the middle of a Chicago winter all factor into the sense of urgency of getting a new home built by a certain date.

Perhaps it’s obvious but the spec home route offers the quickest move in timeline since this home has already been built and is ready to move in as soon as you can close on which can be as little as thirty to sixty days!

Aside from an already-completed new construction spec home, a remodel will most likely have the quickest turn around since the construction drawings will be less intensive and the permitting process is easier. While there can be some surprises when building out a remodeling project, there will generally be a smaller scope of work with even a large remodel compared to a new construction house, thus resulting in a quicker completion timeline. The most efficient of gut rehabs can take as little as five months to be designed, permitted, and finished.

Next in terms of timeline is purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder. This option will be quicker than a custom home since there will be less work creating the design. The land will already have been developed in terms of infrastructure, and permits will be already in the process of approval by the village for the build. Going with this type of build can get you into your new home in as little as six months.

Custom home building will take the longest out of any new construction options because you are ultimately starting from scratch and designing and selecting each detail brand new for the home. This path is the most involved in terms of process for building a house, and includes finding a lot (if you don’t already have one), designing the home, permitting, developing the property to build on, and then building the actual home. The length of a custom home design and build scenario can range from one to two-and-a-half years for most custom home builders in Illinois.

How Important Is Quality To You?

Do you want it fast, cheap, or good? While this saying doesn’t exactly apply to the choices for a new build, there are trade-offs for each option. This one is somewhat harder to rank the different options for since quality will be so heavily dependent on your builder.

#1 on the list is custom home builders. Most experts would agree that custom builders generally are known for putting out a high-quality product. This is because most custom home builders focus much more time and energy on each project and client thus resulting in a higher quality build in the end.

Next in our rankings is purchasing a home in a development community from a production builder. Admittedly, this one is kind of hit or miss. Some production builders have a great reputation for building quality homes but as a whole, this group generally ranks on the lower end of quality and reputation since this business model can be all about volume, efficiency, and profit which can sometimes take away from the integrity of the final product.

Buying a spec home is similar to a production home build in the sense that the products on the market will be a mixed bag. Although there are spec homes out there that are built very well, it’s important to understand the quality of the home you are considering since in some cases, these homes are put out by individuals that may have more experience in real estate or finance instead of actual building expertise.

Although we have remodeling projects ranked at the bottom of this list, this should not deter you if remodeling is a good fit for you otherwise. Many remodeling projects have been and can be completed to a very high level of quality, it’s simply important to note that there will be a trade-off when comparing a high quality remodel vs. a high-quality new home build. Quality can be very good on a remodel but never quite as good as new construction since remodeling involves matching up the old with the new. While the comfort, durability, energy efficiency, and air quality simply cannot match that of a new construction home, a well-done remodel will still be able to satisfy even the most discerning of consumers.

Wrap Up

There you have it – a breakdown of the major options to consider when deciding to build. The simple truth is that there are pros and cons of each different route. Your personal situation and needs will dictate what option is best for you. Regardless of which path is right for you, at the end of the day, it’s of utmost to ensure you are working with a builder that you can trust and deliver a high-quality home to you.

It’s our commitment at BrightLeaf to help you find which build option is best for you and get you into the home of your dreams whether it’s a BrightLeaf remodel, semi-custom, or custom home.

We hope you’ve found this piece helpful. Feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions or comments!

At BrightLeaf, our build experience is based around a personalized and transparent team approach with you involved in every step. We only build using a scientific whole-home approach with better materials, better design, project management, and construction methods.

You can also contact us here to request a free, no obligation design and pricing consultation!

About BrightLeaf

BrightLeaf is an award-winning, custom home builder specializing in sustainable, modern energy-efficient homes as well as remodeling and renovations. We are also a  full-service real estate brokerage that can help you buy and sell in the Greater Chicagoland Area.

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