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Custom Home Design in Melbourne vs Project Home: Some Pros and Cons


When it comes to planning your dream home, you have two main options – creating a custom design or choosing an existing floor plan. While having a home that is tailored to your unique requirements may sound ideal, is a bespoke build worth it? Custom home designs are usually marketed as a premium option, but are they really that different from a project home?

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The benefits of a bespoke home design 


When you design your own home, you can make sure it suits your specific tastes and requirements. Your designer will work with you to understand what your dream property looks like and what you really require. They will then help bring that to life, tailoring the design to how you and your family want to live.
A custom design also gives you much greater control of the fixtures, fittings, and finishes. If there is a feature you really want or an unusual material you love, this can be worked into the design. You can also make the best of your site and create something that is truly unique and celebrates the location.
If sustainability is important to you, a custom design allows you to embrace these principles fully. Working with your designer, you can make sure you maximise energy efficiency and minimise the overall environmental impact. You can also incorporate recycled or responsibly sourced materials and create a home that is sensitive to its natural surrounds.


The challenges of a custom build

A custom home will usually be more expensive than a comparable project build. From initial design to sourcing materials and the actual build, almost every step could come with an additional cost. And, the more bespoke your design, the more expensive it will be as specialist materials will likely be required. It's important to partner with a specialist who can help you navigate this well.
Also, the whole process often takes longer. The initial design phase can add time to your schedule, and custom designs are often harder to build. This is particularly true if you have worked any unusual materials or unique features into your design. If you liaise with a specialist custom design and build company from the early stages, many of these costs can be minimised.
Finally, the flip side of having more control is that there will be a lot more decisions to make. Even with your designer’s help, there will be a lot you need to think through and get right. This can be extremely stressful, particularly if you have not built before or struggle to visualise the end product.

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The positives of a project home 


The biggest benefit of choosing a project home is exactly that – it is a simple choice. Deciding on your floor plan can be as easy as selecting the most suitable one out of a brochure. And although it may never be exactly to your specifications, you may even be able to make slight tweaks to the layout, if required.

Moreover, most of the hard decision making and careful planning is done for you. The options available have been carefully thought through by experienced developers and designed to suit different types of families. 
While the floor plan may not be unique, you will still get to choose some of your fixtures and finishes. This allows you some level of control over the house plans and lets you personalise the space to your taste.
Also, when selecting your builder, you should be able to get a good sense of the quality of their work. Most companies will have display homes for you to walk through and see how the space feels. This can be particularly useful if you have a hard time visualising what the finished home will look like. It's important to note that these display homes may be built by their most experienced team. The people who end up building your home may not have the same level of experience or quality control as those who built the display home.
And, because the developer will have built the design before, you can rest assured that they know what they are doing. The actual build should progress quickly as they will have refined the process and worked through any problems. They will also usually use standardised materials, which should be more cost-effective.

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The problems with mass-produced designs

The most obvious downside of a project home is that it is not unique. It will be a standard design, and your ability to tailor it to your tastes and requirements will be limited.
You could also struggle to find a house design that works well with the specific features of your site. In fact, many project builders will not work on sites that require additional planning or groundworks. As such, if your block is steep, narrow or an odd shape, a project home may not be an option.
It may even be difficult to find a design that perfectly suits your needs and lifestyle. Often there will be additional spaces or features that you do not require that come standard with the design. This can add unnecessary cost to your build.
Also, project homes are notorious for being advertised with a base level price. As many common features (e.g. ducted air conditioning, patios, and landscaping) are not included, this can feel a little misleading. It can also create issues when viewing display homes, as they often include features that come at an extra cost.
Finally, while the actual build may be quicker, you may need to wait a while before building can start. Most project builders work on multiple homes at one time, and yours will be fitted into their schedule. As such, it is not uncommon for there to be years between signing the contracts and building works beginning

READ > 8 Ways to Find a Quality Builder That You Can Trust

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Other factors to consider


In addition to the above pros and cons, there are other key differences between custom designs and project homes. Whether these are positives or negatives will depend on your personal preferences and what you expect from your design experience. Specifically, when choosing which way to go, you should consider:

  • The type of service you would like: Developing a custom design is a very consultative process, with the designer working closely with you. They will spend time building a rapport with you and, at times, they may challenge your thoughts and requests. By contrast, there is minimal need for negotiation with a project build, and the customer service is more sales-oriented.

  • How involved you want to be: As already noted, a custom design requires you to make a lot of decisions. This higher level of involvement will be required throughout the design and build. However, with a project build, most decisions are made early in the process. After that, most developers will require minimal engagement from you and will encourage you to leave the work to them.

  • The quality of the final product: Most builders who build project homes have multiple projects on the go and quality control can be difficult to manage at this level. On the other hand, a bespoke custom home builder who specialises in building one of a kind home, will have systems in place to manage a higher level of detail and quality.

Still not sure if a custom home build is right for you?

As one of Melbourne’s leading custom builders, Carmel Homes understands the benefits – and challenges – of a bespoke design. We have developed unique properties for a wide range of clients and are experts in coming up with creative solutions to a variety of issues. If you have any questions about working with a custom builder, give our friendly team a call.


1129 Toorak Road

1300 79 28 29

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