Potential homeowners often ask why building a custom home takes longer than a typical production home. Primarily, it’s because there are fewer pre-selected elements compared to a production home. Depending on their preferred level of involvement, custom home buyers can have complete control over every element of the process, starting with lot selection and placement of the home on the lot (in consultation with the home builder and architect, if there is one).

In a production home, developers already have cleared the land and laid out homesites. Home builders offer a selection of only a few floor plans, and maybe 90 percent of the process – from construction materials, to room sizes and layouts, to furnishings and interior and exterior finishes – are pre-selected by the home builder. Even home builders that offer options for customizing a home usually only offer a limited number of defined options, in designated areas, from which buyers can choose.

This arrangement allows for some cost savings, through the ability to buy supplies, materials and other items in bulk, often well in advance of them being needed. Production home building also offers standardization which makes the construction and inspection process proceed smoothly, because all parties are familiar with the plans and steps of putting together a home that has been built many times.

By contrast, custom homes are built to suit the exact needs and wants of a particular buyer. In a custom building project, home buyers, working with their builder and architect or designer, are able to choose up to 100 percent of the elements that go into the completion of the home. You literally can start with a blank sheet of paper (which means finding an architect or designer, which also can add to the timeline).

This can result in a home that boasts unique views, soaring spaces, inspiring design elements, and function-specific rooms, with materials and finishes that reflect the home buyer’s every preference. But the complex features, amenities and finishes of custom homes also may require more time to source and a higher level of expertise to install. Unusual features also may be less familiar to building inspectors, which can result in additional delays in reviewing plans and granting approvals. And keep in mind that making the myriad of large and small decisions required to build a custom home can add stress for the homeowner.

Other factors that may affect the time needed to build a custom home include the size and style of the home, selection of a lot and arrangement of financing. Time also is a consideration if the buyer has to sell a current home, or is looking to relocate from an area outside of Western North Carolina. That explains why a custom home can take 8-16 months, or longer, to build. Also, remember that making changes late in the process can add substantial delays to the timeline.

Custom homes are usually larger and more complex than a production home, so logically, a custom home will take longer to build. In fact, according to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, the average time it took to take a new home from authorization to completion in 2017 was 6.6 months for a built-for-sale or “spec” house, 9.1 months for a contractor-built house, and 12.5 months for an owner-built home.

The time required to work with a custom home builder, architect, or designer to craft a plan and blueprints and select materials, products, and appliances depends on the home buyer. Building permits and approvals also need to be obtained.

The exact amount of time it takes to build a custom home depends on the size of the home, the quality of construction, and the amount of specialty features, such as stonework and custom carpentry. The size of the construction or home building company you employ can also impact the amount of time required. After all, constructing a home is a matter of man-hours, so the more people working on your home, and the more experienced and capable those people are, the faster they can build.

Your home builder should have a strong network and good relationships with local professionals and agencies so that the proper permits are in place, and inspections and approvals occur in a timely fashion. A home builder with integrity and a good local reputation also will be able to attract higher-quality subcontractors.

The weather is another important variable that can affect the time needed to build a home in Western North Carolina. As we previously discussed, there are 3 principal phases in the custom homebuilding process: pre-construction; construction; and post-construction.

Several steps that take place during the construction phase are weather-dependent, including grading of the site, setting of footings and foundation, installation of walls and flooring, and addition of exterior siding, brick or stonework. Even required inspections from local regulatory agencies can be stalled by weather, adding to the construction timeline.

Obviously, rain or winter weather can delay construction. That’s why we recommend that most projects begin construction by Spring, so that we have the home “under roof” before winter arrives.

The home’s framing and subfloor should not be exposed to rainy weather for extended periods, because wet or damp weather can result in warping of structural wood members or weakening of adhesives used in wooden framing materials. Fowler & Associates uses top quality materials and adhesives to help prevent these problems.

Some elements of the homebuilding process – like pouring and curing concrete, or installing stonework and siding and asphalt shingles – actually work better when the weather is warmer and dry. Asphalt shingles, for example, seat better when the weather is hot. And most contractors prefer working outside when the weather is hot, rather than cold.

Approximate Custom Home Building Timeline

Below is a rough breakdown of each phase in the process of building of a custom home and an estimate of the time each phase may take:

Pre-construction: 9 – 12 months

  • Assemble a team (architect, builder, etc) – 3 months
  • Secure a building site – 2 months
  • Home & lot design (style, floor plan, options, selections) – 3 to 6 months
  • Loan and permits approval -1 month

Construction: 12 months

(Note: Many of these projects take place simultaneously, so the construction phase is shorter than the totals below.)

  • Documents (plans, specs, bids and contracts) – 2 months
  • Site prep (clear, grade, level and stake) – 1 month
  • Foundation (pour footings, foundation, basement, slab; install drain) – 1 ½ months
  • Framing and rough carpentry (frame walls, floors, roof; install sheathing, house wrap) – 2 months
  • Install HVAC – 1 month
  • Rough plumbing, electrical, audio/video, security – 2 ½ months
  • Roofing, exterior siding/brick/trim, windows, doors – 1 ½ months
  • Install drywall and insulation – 1 ½ months
  • Prime, caulk, paint – 3 months
  • Flooring, cabinets, trim, hardware – 4 months

Cleaning, punch list, closing: 1 month

An experienced custom home builder with a strong track record of success can make the process go more smoothly and ease the worries of potential buyers. At Fowler & Associates Home Builders, we limit the number of custom homes we build each year, which ensures we can deliver a home built with distinction, unquestionable value and superior craftsmanship. We focus on high-quality homes that offer endless customization options for our clients, and we choose the best materials to offer a finished product that will last for generations. If you’re ready to begin, contact us to obtain a quote for building your custom home!