back to all blogs

Types of Home Builders: Production, Semi-Custom, Custom

March 24th, 2023

By Sofia Alonso

5 min read


Building a home is an exciting, but challenging process that requires careful consideration of several factors, including what type of builder to choose. 

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to select the right one for your needs. 

As custom home builders in the Northern Virginia area for over 20 years, we have spoken to many buyers who were unaware of the different types of builders available to them. 

We aim to educate and inform people who are interested in learning more about the home building process and believe understanding the different types of home builders is an important first step. 

The three primary types of home builders are:

  1. Production home builders

  2. Semi-custom home builders 

  3. Custom home builders

Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that are essential to understand to make an informed decision. 

Which is why in this article, we’ll explore the differences between each type of builder and provide insights into which might be the best fit for your project goals. 


The Inside Out Home Photographed by ©️ Maxwell MacKenzie

Production Home Builders

Production builders are the most common type of home builders. 

They typically buy a large plot of land, develop it, and create an entire neighborhood of homes, also known as a subdivision

Buyers can choose from a set of pre-designed floor plans and interior finishes with limited customization options. 


Production Home Builder Pros

These homes are typically considered a good investment of a purchase since they are all very similar in style and price point which makes them suitable for most people and it’s almost a safe-bet that you could re-sell it if you needed to. 

Additionally, because the home exists in a builder’s development, the buyers have the assurance that their neighborhood will generally remain the same with no unpredictable changes or construction in the future. 

Most subdivisions have some form of a homeowner’s association that will ensure that the exterior of all homes is similar, and everyone’s yard is maintained to a certain standard. 

The process is generally simpler, takes less time, and costs less when compared to semi-custom or custom home building. Buyers go through a simple selection process, choosing from a limited set of options of exterior color, interior finishes, appliances, paint color, floor plans, and whether a space is finished or unfinished. 

From a design perspective, a production level home creates the most opportunity for what we call “museum rooms.” These are the rooms that exist in your home, but you never use. This is because the footprint of the home was designed to be generally compatible with many lot shapes, allowing it to be replicated throughout the subdivision; rather than being intentionally designed to fit the functionality of your lifestyle. 


Production Home Builder Cons

Production home design is not built to accommodate unique or specific requirements so buyers are locked into a set of floor plans with limited flexibility and major structural changes are not possible. 

For example, if the production builder offers you only vinyl siding as an exterior material, but you want building stone, you may be out of luck. The production builders’ permit plans have been engineered with vinyl siding as the exterior material. To change that exterior material to building stone would require re-engineering the project to factor in the additional weight of the stone.


Production Home Builder Cost

Production homes typically cost around $150/Sq.Ft., not including the cost of the land. 


The Inside Out Home Photographed by ©️ Maxwell MacKenzie

Semi-Custom Home Builders

Semi-custom builders generally offer buyers to choose from an array of architectural plans to begin the design process. Some semi-custom builders work with an architect on-staff and some outsource their design services to an architectural firm. 

Once you select your preferred floor plan from their options, you have the ability to make some customizations to the design. The builder typically presents a model of your selected floor plan for a base price. 

Then, the builder may allow you to choose optional features like additional rooms or minor structural changes, depending on what your builder offers and your selected floor plan allows. Any optional features selected will come at an additional cost to the buyer, on top of the base price. 


Semi-Custom Home Builder Pros

Buyers have more flexibility to choose interior finishes and appliances in comparison to production, allowing them to create a more personalized home. You can add or remove unique features such as a covered patio, a sunroom, a finished or unfinished basement, attic space, wet bar, exercise room, or an additional laundry room in the basement. 

Semi-custom builders offer a balance between flexibility and affordability, making it an attractive option for many buyers.


Semi-Custom Home Builder Cons

You’re not creating a brand new floor plan or layout and you have to maintain the original footprint and structural integrity of the design, so customization is limited when compared to a fully custom home.

Any significant modifications to the design may incur additional costs and could lead you to consider going full custom. Our rule of thumb is: if you want to change more than 50% of the set plans with a semi-custom builder, then you might want to explore an architect-led custom builder. 

Many semi-custom builders market themselves as custom builders, which is why it is important for you to know the subtle differences as a buyer so you can make the right choice for your project. 


Semi-Custom Home Builder Cost

Semi-custom homes are usually priced around $250/Sq.Ft., not including the cost of land. 


The Inside Out Home Photographed by ©️ Maxwell MacKenzie

Custom Home Builders

Custom builders offer buyers complete flexibility and control over their home’s design and layout. Buyers can work with an architect, either on staff or hired by the builder, to create a custom floor plan, select unique materials, and incorporate any feature they desire. 

Many custom builders show prospective clients floor plans of past projects as starting points to inspire them, but no element of said existing floor plan has to be used in the new design. 


Custom Home Builder Pros

Custom homes can accommodate unique requirements such as multi-generational living, special accessibility needs, or a home-based business. Buyers have the freedom to make any structural or architectural changes to their design and choose between multiple design options before settling. 

They can also provide a high level of luxury as they allow you to source and incorporate unique and high-end finishes and materials. You can play with the quality of certain aspects of the home and flex it where you want so if something is really important to you, you can go super high quality with it and more standard in other areas. 


Custom Home Builder Cons

The design process for a custom home is more complex and time-consuming, requiring more involvement from the buyer. Some buyers find it challenging to find the right lot or land for their custom project. It will cost more and take more time than a production or semi-custom build, but it will be exactly what you want so if you have specific desires or wants for your home - custom may be right for you. 


Custom Home Builder Cost 

Custom homes are the most expensive option of the three, with prices typically starting at $350/Sq.Ft., not including the cost of land. Read more about the factors that impact the cost of a custom home. 


Which Type of Home Builder Should I Choose?

While we cannot tell you which to choose as only you know your priorities for your new home, typically: 

A production home works well if:

  • You are concerned about resale value
  • You need to live in a certain area for work or school 
  • You are focused on saving time and money

A semi-custom home works well if:

  • You want a more personalized touch to your home
  • You are interested in being involved in minor design changes
  • You don’t have the budget for a custom home

A custom home works well if:

  • You have specific design desires
  • You are seeking a non-traditional floor plan
  • You want unique finishes from specific retailers

Now that we have reviewed the three main types of home builders and the advantages and disadvantages of each, you are more prepared to continue researching your new home project. 

Contact Us

If you’d like to read more before you reach out, here are some additional resources from our Learning Center



9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065