Home Builders – Understanding the difference between a Custom, Spec, and Tract Builder

When it comes to home building and home builders there are definitely key differences in the build process and the type of home builder will impact your homebuilding experience.  It is important to understand the type of builder you need to ensure a successful home building project.

Custom Home Builders:

This type of builder is typically a low-volume builder that builds one-of-a-kind homes on your land.  They offer design/build services with possibilities that are endless.  Higher end materials are used in the home building process.  This can include luxury materials like granite counter tops, crown moldings, taller ceiling heights, custom cabinets, larger doors, etc.  If your desire is to build a Green Home or Net Zero Home, you will want to consult with a Custom Home Builder for your project.

A custom home need not be a large, luxury, mansion.  A custom home is simply a site specific home built from a unique set of plans for a specific client.  Lifestyle, how the home will be lived in, the size of the family, and other contributing factors are all considered in the design/build process. 

The home owner, home builder, and the architect determine variables for the home that will make it unique and one-of-a-kind. Design, layout, amenities, size, and creative touches are just a few ways in which the home will be unique.  The homeowner has carte blanche as to design features in the home as well as controlling the price of the home.  When building a custom home, the homeowner is much more intimately involved in the design/build process from start to finish.  Custom homes have a higher resale value because the craftsman ship and materials used are far superior to those found in production built homes.

Semi-Custom Home Builders:

This type of builder is often confused with the true “Custom” home builder.  This type of builder will oftentimes advertise as a custom home builder, but in reality, is a far cry from a true custom home builder.

The semi-custom home builder is usually associated with a sub-division developer and is building in a pre-described manner and location.  His ability to truly customize your home will be limited by the development’s Home Owner’s Association (HOA).  A Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) will have been established that outlines what and how you can build in the development.

This builder will have stock plans available for his clients to choose from.  Some design changes to the original plan can be made before construction begins, but it will require the expertise of an architect to re-draw the plans and the client will be charged.

Semi-custom builders allow for some variances in materials used as long as those decisions are made well in advance of the building phase.  Again, these types of changes to the semi-custom home builder’s plans may need the expertise of an architect to facilitate a plan re-draw and this expense is passed on to the client.

Although the client is involved in some decisions (mostly color selections), the semi-custom home builder is really more like the spec home builder.  The semi-custom homebuilder just sells the home before it is built and the homebuyer has a few more opportunities to makes selections within the constraints of the HOA and CC&R’s.  There is very little input from the home owner in terms of quality, energy efficiency, or materials that provide longevity to the home’s lifespan.

Spec Home Builders:

This type of builder buys a lot or land, builds the home and then lists the home for sale.  The builder “speculates” that he will make money once the home sells.

If the home sells during the course of construction, the homebuyer may be able to choose some of the interior finishes.  However, the floor plan has already been determined before groundbreaking and very little else can be changed.

Since the builder bought the land and is building the home specifically to sell it and in theory, make a profit, any upgrades to the home will be in addition to the purchase price if the home was purchased during the construction phase.  Typically the only items that could be changed are paint colors, floor covering colors, stain colors, etc. 

Keep in mind that the interior finishes have already been pre-determined and color choice may be the only changes the homebuyer can make without incurring additional costs over the purchase price of the home.  Again, there is very little input from the home owner in terms of quality, energy efficiency, or materials that provide longevity to the home’s lifespan.

Tract or Production Home Builders:

This group of high volume home builders/developers that owns a large plot (tract) of land.  This land has been divided into smaller lots or plots for “stock plan home”.  This means that the builder/developer have selected a handful of house plans they will use to build homes specifically in a particular development.  The homes will look similar to one another with minor variances to attract various buyers. 

The homes will vary based on number of bedrooms, single or two story models, over-all square footage and exterior colors and design, but the variances will be very slight in order to achieve a cohesive looking neighborhood.  The positive side of this is that if you purchase a home in this type of development, you will not have any surprises as to what kind of home will be built next to your home. 

The faster the homes sell the more homes the builder will build to keep up with demand.  These homes are built with price point as a major consideration, so the quality of these types of homes can be somewhat on the low end of building standards.  

Pre-fabricated kitchen cabinets, low-end appliances, framing grade, paint and carpet grade, and roofing shingles are all areas where costs can be cut.  If the buyer is not familiar with construction methods and materials, these low-end components will go unnoticed. 

Tract homes are priced to be competitively inexpensive. Resale value is the greatest disadvantage as there is enormous competition when selling a tract home.  The original purchase price is usually about the only advantage in the short term and attracts many first-time homebuyers with little to no experience in building practices and materials that will stand the test of time. 

It is important for a home buyer to understand the differences between the various types of builders before purchasing a home.  If you are a first time buyer and not concerned with quality or longevity of the home, a tract home may be the best option for you. 

However, if you are looking for energy efficiency, quality craftsmanship, innovative materials and a higher resale value if and when you decide to sell, then the Custom Home Builder is the only way to go!


Holiday and Winter Home Fire Safety

While the holidays bring festivities and good cheer, family gatherings and yummy treats, it is also the season of increased risk and injury resulting from home fires. 

Seasonal decorations, Christmas trees, candle usage, holiday cooking methods, fireplaces, and space heaters significantly contribute to the increased risk of home fires.  Add to that the distracting nature of the holidays, and it’s easy to see why home fires increase dramatically around the holiday season.

Taking preventative steps is the first line of defense to keep your holiday experience a joyful one.  Paying closer attention when decorating, cooking, entertaining and heating your home can significantly reduce fire hazards.  Following these simple rules below will increase safety and ensure a happy holiday. 


Never leave cooking food unattended.  Keep combustible materials (dish towels, etc.) and loose clothing away from open flames.  Keep your cooking area clean and use caution when cooking with oils as they can ignite easily.  Always turn your pan handle sideways to prevent accidents and burns.  Make sure your kitchen is equipped with a fire extinguisher and easily accessible.

Turkey Fryers:

Only use these types of appliances outdoors and away from buildings and other combustible materials.  Never use on wooden decks or in your garage.  Make sure the appliance is on a level and stable surface and do not leave the appliance unattended.  Never place a frozen turkey in hot oil.  Thaw the turkey first.  Never allow children or pets near the fryer.  The oil can remain hot for several hours after the appliance is turned off.  Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Portable heaters, Fireplaces and woodstoves:

Keep heaters a minimum of 36” inches away from combustibles.  Plug directly into a wall outlet.  Never use an extension cord. Use only heaters with built-in high temperature and tip-over shut off features.

Have your fireplace or woodstove inspected annually for deficiencies and creosote buildup.  Make sure your chimney is cleaned before wood burning season use.  Only burn well-seasoned wood and never burn trash or paper in your fireplace.  Keep combustibles 36’ away and never leave the fire unattended.  Dispose of ash in a metal contain and place the container outside and away from combustibles to ensure hot coals won’t start a fire. 

Christmas Trees:

Do not use open flames or candles near a Christmas tree.  Do not place the tree near heat vents, fireplaces, or other heat sources. If needles fall off easily when a branch is shaken or the needles are brittle and break easily, the tree is too try and needs to be removed from the home.  Check the water level daily.  A 6’ tree will consume approximately one gallon of water every two days.  Check the wiring and lights for defects before they are hung on a tree.  Miniature lights are recommended as they use less power and produce less heat. 

Smoke alarms, CO2 sensors, and fire extinguishers

Now is a good time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and CO2 sensors.  Test each device to ensure proper function.  Locate and make sure your fire extinguishers are charged and ready for action.  Be sure to instruct family members where each extinguisher is located and how to properly use in case of a fire.

With a little pre-planning and keeping safety in mind, your holidays are sure to joyous and filled with wonderful memories of this most wonderful time of the year!


Boomers Are Buying!

Cash is king and newly retired baby boomers are cashing in and driving the housing market to recovery.  The baby boom generation is often referred to as the “rebellious generation” and their idea of retirement is anything but typical.

Because of their active and healthier lifestyle, boomers will be buying and selling well into their 80’s.  And with a whopping 16.3 million Americans over the age of 60 owning their home free and clear in 2012, a clear trend is developing. 

A recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate asked boomers their plans for retirement.  The data collected is rather telling.

  • ·       39 percent of boomers want to retire to a rural community – either a farm or small town.
  • ·       27 percent plan to move to an adult community where activities geared towards this age group are prevalent.
  • ·       26 percent said they plan to retire near or in a city.

The baby-boom generation has more equity than their parents because they purchased and owned their homes during the biggest 30-year housing bull market in history.  The U.S. national average median price of an existing home purchased in 2013 was $201,700, triple the $67,000 median price in 1982 when many boomers were buying their first properties.

Just as they transformed societal norms and politics as college students in the 1960’s and 1970’s, this generation will now shape the housing market as they begin to retire and scale down their homes.  They possess an asset that has appreciated over the last 30 years and have enormous amounts of equity should they decide to sell their current home.  This allows the boomer generation to purchase a new home outright, with cash, and not have to worry about rising interest rates and mortgage payments should their income diminish.

Today, the oldest baby boomers are already in their 60s. By 2030, about one in five Americans will be older than 65.  As boomers go through the stages of life, they change everything they touch and it looks like this generation will have a huge impact on the housing market recovery and beyond.


2014 Predicted to Be Another Strong Year for Boise Housing Market

Early 2014 saw a sluggish housing market.  A tough winter took its toll nationally on our economy and that in turn saw consumer confidence wane in the first quarter.  Here locally, we definitely saw a “cooling” off period as well.

But as the temperatures began to thaw, so did the housing market.  New listings were added in March and sales began to climb.   If you are a homeowner, your annual tax assessment notice held a surprise for most in the Treasure Valley.  Home values have increased exponentially over the last year. As a result, many found saw this reflected in their annual tax assessment this spring.

Ada County median existing home prices ended 2013 up 15%.  Strong home sales last spring, high demand and low supply were contributing factors to this double digit appreciation.  Prices are beginning to return to the normal range and distressed properties are few and far between.

Canyon County hit it out of the park with a whopping 25% increase in home value!  While homes in Canyon County offer more affordability, the low supply of existing homes on the market continue to drive prices higher with homeowners realizing a steady increase in value on their property.

Pent up demand for housing in our area will continue to drive home values higher.  Boise continues to make “Top 10” list for best places to work, live, retire and affordability.  Experts predict that our population will continue to grow because of these attributes of our great state and with that, demand for housing will continue as well.  It’s the basic fundamentals of Real Estate, where supply and demand drive home values higher.

To add to the equation, the Idaho Department of Labor just announced that our state’s unemployment rate dropped below 5% falling to 4.9 percent in May after total employment in the state set a record high for total jobs for the ninth-straight month. The drop from April's 5 percent unemployment rate set a new post-recession low.

The long and the short of it is that Idaho’s economy is doing quite well and population growth is increasing.  All of the key factors are present to encourage development and prosperity locally.  Most experts would agree and that it is safe to say…2014 will be another strong year for Idaho’s housing market.


Multi-Generational Living

Today, there are almost four million American multigenerational households (three or more generations living together) according to new census data.  Since 1990, the number of multigenerational families grew by approximately 60 percent.

This household structure allows families to come together to address the many challenges of life, such as raising a child, caring for elders, single parenthood, and high cost of living and housing. The multigenerational family creates a safety network among its generations to create a stable environment to address the common needs of the family as a whole.

Hibbard Construction is pleased to announce that we are building our first multigenerational custom home for a wonderful family in Wilder.  

This 5100 + sq. ft. home will boast two kitchens, two seperate living areas and a spacious 3 car garage. Three generations will call this beautiful house their home.  

We are really excited about this project and hope this home will be everything the homeowners have anticipated and more!  

Click here to view more photos of the build process and check back as we update with more photos.