Custom Home vs. Spec Home: What’s the Difference?

If you’re considering building or buying a new house, you might hear the terms “custom home” and “spec home.” What’s the difference—and what’s right for you?

February 4, 2020

If you’ve done any research into building your dream home, you’ve likely come across the terms “spec home” and “custom home.” But which is right for you?

The simple answer: How much freedom do you want about the design and features of your new home?

About Spec Homes

A spec house is one that is built by a builder without a specific owner in mind or involved. The builder determines its style and layout based on market trends and what they believe will appeal to buyers. Depending on when you become involved with purchasing the home, you might have the opportunity to choose from a few interior layouts as well as from a selection of color palettes and product options, but your choices will be limited. In most cases, spec houses are built to code requirements but not above, and they typically aren’t customized to the lot they sit on.

A spec house can be a great house—but it isn’t unique nor uniquely yours. Spec homes commonly leave the owner saying, “It’s great, but I wish it had…”

About Custom Homes

In contrast, a custom home is specifically tailored to your tastes, your needs, and your property. You will make decisions on nearly every element of the home—from its overall style to its layout to the level of insulation in the walls and the number of outlets in the kitchen (and their locations) to the precise finish of the bathroom faucets and the color and layout of the tile. An in-house designer will work with you to determine what elements will suit your lifestyle and individual needs.

• Planning to retire in your home? Let’s make sure the doors and shower entry are wide enough in case future challenges require a walker or wheelchair.

• Just the two of you? Eliminate extra rooms and flex space that are trendy with today’s spec houses.

• Have four kids who like to do their homework in the kitchen? A custom home will allow for extra outlets along the island.

• Love to cook? The designer can show you how to maximize your work triangle and get the best bang for your buck on appliances, cabinetry, and countertops.

• Conscious about energy efficiency? Upgrade the walls to a higher R-value and have a design expert walk you through different window and roofing options.

Just as important, a custom home will be designed specifically for your property, rather than trying to squeeze in an existing home design. Designers can customize the floor plan to best suit the lot’s size, shape, and amenities. Have a hillside property with killer views to the rear? Don’t waste it with a spec house featuring tiny windows along the back. A custom home design team can ensure your floor plan is laid out with primary rooms facing those views while placing lesser-used spaces and utilities elsewhere. For a property that’s too close to the neighbors, the builder can rearrange windows or entire rooms to maximize privacy. And the same processes can overcome narrow lots, steep slopes, and other challenges.

If you’ve saved for years to buy that forever home you’ve been dreaming of, make sure it’s truly the home of your dreams. Building a custom home requires a slightly bigger investment in time and money, but ensures you’ll get exactly what you desire—from the modern lines of the roof to the depth of the soaking tub.

Ready to learn more? Tell us about your dream home here.