Custom or Volume? How To Select The Right Builder For Your New Home

Engineers handshake at meeting. Congratulations and agreed to do the project together

Choosing a builder is one of the biggest and most challenging decisions you have to make in the home-building process, as they will be responsible for creating the home you and your family live in, most probably for years to come.

Builders can be roughly divided into two categories: Volume or Custom.

Volume, otherwise known as project home builders, are large companies that usually construct hundreds of homes per year from a set catalogue of designs.

Custom home builders are typically smaller companies that build homes specifically designed for the client and might only complete a handful of projects in the same period. They are often far more expensive due to materials and custom designs.


Should you choose a volume or custom builder?

Volume builders offer significant savings over custom builders by standardising designs and maximising efficiency with materials and trades.

For most people, the decision between volume and custom builds comes down to price.

For example, with a custom design, the rate per square metre is quite a bit more than a volume design, and that’s because of the speed at which you can build and materials.

With volume builds, buyers usually choose from a set range of fixtures and finishes, and there may be limitations on floorplan modifications.

Volume builders may also offer house and land packages to buyers who don’t already own a block of land, which streamlines the process.

For those who do own the land, the block often dictates the type of builder, as most volume designs can’t be built on small or significantly sloping blocks.


Where to find a builder

In terms of volume builds, most home buyers choose their home design in a display village. You want to do your homework to make sure they are a recognised builder and importantly, you want to have a good rapport with your customer service representative as building a new home can be challenging at times.

For custom builds, it’s a good idea to ask around and do some research online in architecture magazines and on social media. Furthermore, driving around your local area to see who is building other homes, in addition to asking your architect for referrals is also a good idea.

In addition, if you have independent plans done, you can tender it out to multiple builders to provide quotes off certified plans.

The Housing Industry Association of Australia (HIA) is a wonderful reference for both custom and volume home builders as you can look through the most awarded and ranked builders over the preceding years.


How do you make an informed choice?

To avoid disappointment, it’s important to be vigilant when inspecting display homes, as they can often feature optional extras that aren’t included in the base price, particularly with landscaping, bathrooms and kitchens.

Be clear about your budget from the beginning, and make sure you leave yourself a buffer.

If you do opt for a volume build, do your research on builder incentive packages as you may find that you get all the extras you want, for a fraction of the price.

Shopping around is important, so before committing, get at least three quotes from registered builders and understand what your budget will buy you.

While you can browse the work of volume builders in person, this can be trickier with smaller or custom build companies. Builders who rely on recommendations may not invest heavily in marketing, so a lack of online presence is common and shouldn’t necessarily be deal breaker.

In these cases, a builder’s credentials can be checked on the website of the master builder’s association in each state and be sure to ask for references and examples of their previous work.

If you can, it’s also worth talking to a builder’s previous customers, and even arranging a walk-through of a home in progress or immediately after completion.

Finally, choosing a builder you get along with is one of the most important aspects in the selection process, as is making sure their communication style matches the level of involvement you expect to have throughout the project. The key to a good builder-client relationship is clear communication. Decide on what you want to achieve from the start and ensure everything is in place to prevent unforeseen, costly amendments and confusion later on.

We hope that this article assists you with your builder selection process and wish you the best of luck building your new dream home!