7 min Read

Explore the Differences Between Spec Homes vs. Custom Homes

There’s never a dull moment when searching for your forever home. Once you’ve decided a new home build is the right direction for you, there are a number of options to explore. One being whether or not you want to buy a spec home vs. a custom home.

While both offer the same benefits of newly constructed homes, such as lower maintenance costs, modern features, and energy efficient building designs, they aren’t the same. They vary in numerous ways and one may suit your needs and goals better than the other.

“Custom homes and spec homes can both deliver the same level of quality, pride of ownership, and long-term property value – it’s not a decision between good and bad quality. It’s largely about the different experience between buying a custom or pre-built home that ultimately helps people decide which one is right for them.”

-Rob de Clerk, Preconstruction Project Manager, JayMarc Homes

This article will explain the difference between spec homes and custom homes and help you understand the pros and cons of each so you can make a more informed decision and ensure you choose the right experience for you and your family.

What is a Spec Home?

A spec home, short for “speculative,” is a newly constructed residence built without a specific buyer in mind. Builders take the lead, making all design and construction decisions, aiming to create a home that appeals to a broad range of potential buyers. 

These are also called pre-built homes, move-in-ready new builds, pre-designed homes, or other similar terms.

The primary allure of spec homes lies in their move-in readiness, catering to those on tighter timelines or those who prefer not to be involved in the nitty-gritty of the building process.

While customization post-construction is limited, buyers can sometimes add their personal touch through simpler, non-invasive or non-structural elements such as accent paint, window coverings, and garage storage solutions.

Custom Home vs. Spec Home

What is a Custom Home?

A custom home is a unique residence meticulously designed to cater to the specific desires and needs of the homeowner. Unlike pre-designed homes, custom homes involve the homeowner actively collaborating with architectural designers and interior designers, ensuring every detail, from the floor plan to the finishes, aligns with their vision. 

This approach offers unparalleled personalization, allowing choices in materials, design features, and even the smallest nuances that make a house truly feel like home. While there are a number of benefits of a custom, including a one-of-a-kind living space, it requires a significant time commitment and involvement from the homeowner to bring their dream to life.

Okay, But What Are the Real Differences Between a Spec Home and a Custom Home? The Number One Answer is Control

The biggest difference between a spec house and a custom home is the amount of control you’ll have over a new home’s final design. 

With a spec home you have very little control over the project. You won’t be able to choose the floor plan, interior design elements, utility integrations, or exterior decisions. A spec home has been pre-planned by the builder. Other than some final interior design touches, it cannot be changed.

Conversely, with a custom home, you get to control as much of the design as you want. Well, within reason that is. The lot you build on, local jurisdiction rules, and building code laws will heavily influence what you can and cannot do with your home. For instance, when building a home in Seattle, the design must adhere to the Seattle Residential Code (SRD).

However, once those limitations/specifications are taken into account, a custom home gives you the most flexibility possible in a new home build.

While control is the biggest difference between a custom home and spec home build project, it’s not the only one. Five other differences that could affect your home buying decision are below.

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Custom Home vs. Spec Home Difference 2: Move-In Time Frame

One of the most tangible differences between spec and custom homes is the time it takes from decision to move-in.

Spec homes:

  • Often already constructed or nearing completion
  • Designed for immediate or near-immediate occupancy
  • Ideal for buyers with urgent housing needs or tight timelines

Custom homes, on the other hand, are a journey of creation. From the initial design phase to selecting materials and overseeing construction, the process is intricate and tailored. This means a longer wait before the keys are in your hand, but the reward is a home crafted to your exact specifications.

In essence, while spec homes offer quick solutions, custom homes are for those who value personalization over speed.

Custom Home vs. Spec Home Difference 3: Project Involvement Level

Custom homes demand a significant level of involvement from the homeowner. From the initial brainstorming sessions to the final touches, homeowners are deeply engaged in every decision, ensuring the end result aligns with their vision. This process, while rewarding, requires a substantial commitment of time, energy, and education.

Spec homes, in contrast, offer a more hands-off experience. Since these homes are pre-designed and often pre-built, the homeowner has very little to do – except arrange for financing and moving arrangements.

Both paths offer unique experiences: the detailed collaboration of custom homes vs. the streamlined simplicity of spec homes. The choice depends on the homeowner’s preference for involvement and the value they place on personalization.

Custom Home vs. Spec Home

Custom Home vs. Spec Home Difference 4: Costs

Custom homes often come with a higher initial price tag due to the level of personalization involved. Every choice, from the type of wood used for the floors to the brand of fixtures in the bathroom, can influence the final cost. 

However, this means homeowners have a clear understanding and control over where their money is going.

Spec homes, on the other hand, might have a more straightforward upfront cost. But it’s essential to be aware of:

  • Potential upcharges for specific upgrades or changes
  • Hidden costs in certain features or amenities
  • The possibility of future renovations to tailor the home to personal preferences

Both options have their own financial considerations, and understanding these can help potential homeowners budget effectively and make informed decisions.

Custom Home vs. Spec Home Difference 5: Builder – Homeowner Relationship

When embarking on the journey of building a custom home, the relationship between the homeowner and the builder becomes paramount. Given the extended timeline, which can stretch up to two years (and beyond!), trust, communication, and mutual respect are essential. 

Homeowners will be collaborating closely with the builder, making countless decisions together, and navigating any challenges that arise.

In contrast, with spec homes, the relationship dynamic isn’t as intertwined. Since these homes are pre-designed, the interactions between the homeowner and builder are fewer and more transactional. While a good rapport is always beneficial, the depth of the relationship might not be as critical due to the limited engagements.

Ultimately, the nature of the home-building project will dictate the level of interaction and the importance of the builder-homeowner relationship.

Spec Homes vs. Custom Homes

Custom Home vs. Spec Home Difference 6: Design Customizations

Custom homes offer homeowners the pinnacle of design customization. From the foundational layout to the minute details of door handles and light fixtures, every aspect can be tailored to the homeowner’s preferences. This level of customization ensures that the home is a true reflection of the individual’s tastes, lifestyle, and aspirations.

On the other hand, spec homes come with predetermined designs. While they often feature modern and appealing layouts, the scope for personalization is limited. Homeowners might have the opportunity to choose finishes or make minor adjustments, but the core design elements are typically set in stone, offering less flexibility in terms of personal touch.

JayMarc Homes: Luxury Custom or Move-In Ready Home in Seattle

At JayMarc Homes, we understand the nuances and desires of homeowners in Seattle. We have decades of experience and retain top-level builders, designers, and tradespeople at every level of our company.

Whether you’re seeking the unparalleled personalization of a custom home or the convenience of a move-in ready spec home, we offer luxury solutions tailored to your unique needs. We are end-to-end home builders and are known for quality craftsmanship and for our unparalleled commitment to our homeowners.

Your perfect home awaits in the heart of Seattle. Don’t compromise on quality or vision. 
Contact JayMarc Homes today and let us turn your home aspirations into reality.