Production Homes vs. Custom Homes: Explaining the Difference

As one of the original thirteen colonies, Delaware is home to a lot of older and even historical houses. While these houses can be great, an old house isn’t for everyone. To truly get what you want – including modern features and amenities – you may decide to build a home.

There are two main options when it comes to building a house: production or custom. A production house is one that is built in volume, typically within a subdivision, and offers few options for customization. Custom homes are unique and are built entirely based on the homeowner’s preferences.

Based in Felton, Carl Deputy and Son Builders constructs new and custom houses throughout Kent County, Sussex County, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We pride ourselves on only building high-quality homes and working closely with our clients to help them design and build a house that meets their needs and their budget. Reach out today to talk to a Delaware custom home builder about your dreams for a new home.

What Is a Production Home?

A production home is a home that is – in a sense – mass-produced. A large number of houses are built using the same house design. Most often, production homes are built in developments by a single home builder. They may also be referred to as “spec” homes, which is short for “speculative” homes because they are built with the hope that someone will buy the property.

The process of building a production home typically begins when a construction company buys a large tract of land and then subdivides it into smaller lots. The company then builds and sells homes based on a handful of home plans or designs. 

Production homes are usually designed and outfitted with features that appeal to a broad swath of homebuyers. For example, they often have popular features like an island in the kitchen or a large primary bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and walk-in closets. These houses usually have neutral colors and standard appliances.

Buyers may purchase homes in the community that are already built or may buy a lot for a house that has yet to be built. If the home hasn’t been built, then buyers may be able to make selections for certain items – such as countertops or appliances – based on their preferences. Some builders allow buyers to have more input into the construction of the home, which is often referred to as a semi-custom home.

A semi-custom home is a cross between a custom home and a production home. A buyer will select a floor plan that works for them, and then customize the home’s selections, finishes, and materials. For example, a builder might have a catalog with options for certain items in the house – like interior or exterior doors. The buyer can pick from a list of pre-selected door styles. This option process is often less time-consuming and stressful for the buyer, yet allows them to have a somewhat customized home.

What Is a Custom Home?

A custom home is exactly what it sounds like – a house that is built to your specifications. Typically, a buyer works directly with a home builder (and/or their own architect) to design, plan, and select every detail about their home’s construction, layout, and finishes. In other words, a custom home is built from scratch – not from a set list of floor plans with minimal (if any) ability to customize the home.

Custom homes may be built on a lot that a homeowner has already purchased or on the builder’s lot. The buyers will be responsible for selecting every detail about their home. This typically includes:

  • The overall home plan and style of the house
  • The number of rooms, including bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Any special features, such as vaulted ceilings or pocket doors
  • Exterior materials (brick, stone, siding, etc).
  • Building materials used, such as plaster or drywall, and luxury vinyl planks or hardwood floors
  • All finishes, from lighting fixtures to paint color to doorknob style to plumbing fixtures
  • Appliances
  • Landscaping

Building a custom home is a time-intensive, detail-oriented process. If you want a one-of-a-kind home, a custom build is the way to go. It also allows homeowners to get exactly what they want in a house – without compromise (other than budget!).

Pros and Cons of Production vs. Custom Homes

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to building a production or semi-custom home or a custom home. A lot depends on your individual situation – such as your budget, when you need to move in, and the amount of time that you have to devote to the process. The key to any home build is to research the construction company and choose an established company like Carl Deputy and Son Builders


For many people, cost is the biggest factor when it comes to buying or building a home. Whether you are able to pay cash or need to get a loan to build a house, most people need to stick to a budget. This can determine whether you buy a production house or build a custom home.

On average, it costs $329,000 to build a home in the United States – not including land. This number can vary significantly based on location, the type and size of the house, and the current cost for materials, finishes, and labor. 

As a rule, production houses – while not inexpensive – tend to cost less than custom homes. They typically include middle-of-the-road finishes and can be built much more quickly than custom houses. For this reason, they are often less expensive than a custom home. 

For example, in a subdivision, new production homes might be advertised for $350,000 to $450,000. The variation in price is often based on the size of the house and lot, plus any added features that the buyer may choose. 

Custom homes typically cost more to build than spec houses. They are usually much more labor-intensive because homeowners aren’t picking from a set selection of house plans, materials, and finishes. There are often more professionals involved – such as architects, draftsmen, and design specialists. Depending on the building plan, more specialized contractors – like plasterers – may be hired.

Of course, custom homes don’t always cost more than production homes. A lot of the cost depends on location and the choices that you make. If you are considering buying a custom home, then you should consult with our team. We can help you understand the typical costs for a production versus a custom home and can talk through your budget with you. A good custom home builder will take your budget into account and will work with you to ensure that you stay within a price range that you can afford.


If you are in a hurry to get into a new house, then a production house is the way to go. Builders construct these houses with the goal of selling them – quickly. Construction companies have to put out a fair amount of money on these homes, so they want to get the houses built and sold as soon as possible. 

Because spec homes are pretty similar, construction is usually quicker than with a custom home. Even if you are purchasing a lot within a subdivision and having a production house built, it will often be faster than building a completely custom home. The options to customize are relatively limited, so there usually isn’t a lot of back and forth over details like what type of tile to put in the bathroom.

By comparison, it usually takes a longer time to build a custom home. The process starts from scratch with a plot of land and an idea. The house itself must be designed before ground can be broken – and the homeowners will have to make a lot of decisions about every detail related to the house.

The custom home building process almost always takes more time than building a production home – much like baking a homemade cake usually takes longer than using a box mix. In some cases, buyers of a production home might be able to purchase a home that is already built or that is near completion. 

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Custom home builders can work with deadlines and people on tight schedules. If you really need to be in a house by a particular date, talk to the construction company about whether that might be realistic – or even possible.


Both production homes and custom houses can be high quality. That being said, because homeowners get to choose every aspect of the house – right down to the building materials used in construction – custom homes are often higher quality builds.  

Production homes often (but not always) use builder-grade options, such as hollow core doors and materials commonly produced with plywood or plastic. This can result in a feeling of overall lower quality. Of course, spec homes can be well-built and include higher-end finishes – a lot depends on the builder and the overall cost of the home.

Custom homes often have higher-end finishes and appliances and may have features like solid core doors and custom woodwork. The overall quality will depend on the homeowner’s choices – you can build a custom home and pick less expensive options that may be of a lower quality. But generally, custom homes tend to be higher quality based on the customer’s choices.

Another factor in the quality of a custom home is the building process. A custom home builder isn’t trying to build out an entire community quickly in order to sell the homes. Instead, they are focusing on that one house and working with the homeowner’s timeline. This slower process may lead to higher-quality results.


One of the biggest advantages of building a custom home is the ability to make it unique by building to a homeowner’s specifications. With a custom build, you can do things like adjust the height of counters throughout the house if the family members are particularly tall. You can also make the house accessible, with disability-friendly features like wider hallways and door openings to allow for wheelchair access. 

Production homes tend to be more cookie-cutter, with the same style of home made over and over again. Most of the homes in a subdivision of spec houses will look pretty similar. They will also have similar floor plans. 

There often isn’t room for much in the way of personalization with a production home (unless the builder allows for a semi-custom build). For example, if a homeowner wanted to add an extra bathroom on the first floor, it usually isn’t possible with a production house. By comparison, homeowners can design a custom house however they want – which may include many bathrooms.

Of course, there are some limits on personalization (beyond budget). The plans have to be logistically possible. They must also be structurally sound and take into account things like the lot and other conditions. That being said, it is often possible to get exactly what you want when building a custom home, particularly when compared with a production house.

Build the Home of Your Dreams with Carl Deputy and Son Builders

For 40 years, Carl Deputy and Son Builders has served Kent and Sussex Counties in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We offer quality custom homes, new homes, and renovations, never skimping on craftsmanship, materials, or customer service. We work collaboratively with our clients to help them build or renovate the home of their dreams. 

If you are contemplating building a home in Delaware, we can help. Our home builders know that a home is one of the biggest investments that our clients will ever make. That is why we take extra care to truly understand what our clients want when it comes to their house – and help them achieve their goals while staying on budget. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a member of our team, give us a call at 302-284-3041 or fill out our online contact form.

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About Carl Deputy and Son Builders

For 38 years, Carl Deputy and Son Builders has been family owned and operated in Central Delaware. Serving Delaware in mostly Kent and Sussex counties, We have been dedicated to setting the benchmark for quality custom homes and remodeling.

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