Very simply as the word implies a home custom designed to meet your desires. Most often this is the result of being unable to find the house you want where you want it. Custom home design provides for satisfying both.
Many tract builders will not make changes at all or will strictly limit them. Materials are predetermined but selections of colors are usually very generous and satisfy most people. Most homes today are energy efficient but some builders will be at the minimum of what the code or market allows. Upgrades are usually available but not always. A custom home will allow for total control and selection if that is preferred.
That path will require design fees not apparent in buying a new or existing house. The reality is there is a design fee or value priced into every home which is reflected in the purchase price or market value. Tract builders that build the same houses over and over on tracts of land can lessen the lot and design cost per house. They can also save on materials and labor due to the scale.
Custom homes can not compete with this on a price per square foot basis. They do however provide other advantages possibly even including saving money. The most common solution to get everything you want is to buy a house that has more than what you want in more footage. This is where you really have to consider what you want and need. If you are paying for a game room you do not really need to get the other rooms and features you want there is a cost associated with that.
I recently designed a home for friends that saved them around $30,000 dollars by cutting footage. They had property and had picked out plans from a plan book and wanted my opinion before buying the plans. In discussing the design what became obvious was that there were rooms larger than necessary and a formal dining room completely unnecessary. We decided that it would be more than worth it for a custom home design. The plan book design was over 2700 square feet and the new custom home design was below 2400. As good friends they paid about what the plan book would have cost them. Design fees vary but for a design only contract that does not include job oversight since that is provided for by the builder the savings for a normal client still would have been well over $20,000.
Existing stock plans can be a great solution if they are exactly or close to what you want. But like buying a new or existing house if you are paying for rooms or footage you do not need existing plans may not be the best or most cost effective choice.
Custom home design is not for everyone but hopefully this knowledge will help you decide if it is the right choice for you.
Darrell A. Haertl, AIBD, TIBD, CPBD is the owner of Design Concepts which has provided award winning custom home design and remodeling design since 1991. With over 30 years of experience, including 8 as a construction superintendent, he is uniquely qualified to provide creative custom home design and remodeling design while considering the cost consequences.