Balance Design and Construction is a leading Coffs Harbour project home builder. Over the last few years, we have constructed dozens of family homes throughout the Coffs Coast region.
We specialise in custom homes, boutique developments, and project homes. But have you ever wondered what a “project home” actually is, and how a project home is different to other new home options? Keep reading to discover everything you ever wanted to know about project homes and whether a project home is the right fit for you.
Simply put, a project home is a house built to a set plan provided by a builder, usually with a limited range of finish options. A project home builder offers a library of floorplans, facades, and finish options, and a client is limited to choosing from these ranges.
Back in the day when homes were designed on a drafting table using a pencil, slide rule, and compass, changing even minor details on a plan meant major time and expense. Hiring an architect to custom design a one-off house plan was very expensive. As a result, some building companies built up a library of set plans and developed a limited range of finish options in order to streamline the building process.
Henry Ford, the inventor of the Model T, was famous for saying that customers could have the Model T in any colour they desired, as long as it was black! By limiting the options available to his customers, Ford could keep production costs down. This is the same principle project home builders applied – by limiting options, they could reduce the costs of designing, estimating, quoting, and ordering.
In the 1960s, it wasn’t unusual for a project builder to offer only six to ten plans, with few opportunities to customise and alter the layouts.
With the advent of computer aided design (CAD), the range of plans available has increased significantly. The options to customise a project home have also grown due to the ability to partially automate and digitally manage the estimating and ordering process.
Larger project home companies now offer dozen of plans, each with multiple variants and sizes, as well as many different facades, finish options, and upgrade packages.
The line between custom homes and project homes is now blurred. Some project home builders offer customers the opportunity to make major amendments to their plans, in effect, turning them into custom or semi-custom homes. Some high volume home builders are still very much “project home builders”, offering limited choice, limited quality, and prices to match.
With all the options now available, you might be thinking that anyone would be crazy to even consider a custom home. But project home builders still have significant limitations.
The biggest limitation is site conditions. If you own land that is sloping or unusual, most project home builders will not be interested in dealing with this extra complexity. Around Coffs Harbour, that can be a big issue. Much of the available residential land in Coffs Harbour is sloping.
In the big cities, where multi-national developers create entire new suburbs with hundreds or thousands of level, rectangular blocks, building with a project home builder may make sense. But in Coffs Harbour, where many blocks are steep or uniquely shaped, a project home builder is unlikely to be able to offer an ideal solution for your needs.
Project home builders often deal only with the construction of a new home, and none of the associated requirements. You may be required to lodge the development application with your local council (or engage a town planner to do it for you), and you may need to organise retaining walls and third party services and reports.
There are still some project home builders, usually at the cheapest end of the market, that offer very limited choices for appliances, floor coverings, and other finishes. You may have only half a dozen carpet colours from which to choose, or one or two options to upgrade appliances or tapware.
The other major limitation with project home builders is design quality. Most project home builders centralise their design services, so even if you are able to make alterations to your chosen house plan, it’s likely that the draftsman working on your plans has never seen your block and knows nothing about you or your needs.
Many project homes are designed to suit the needs and goals of the builder, not the needs and goals of the family that will live in the home.
Over the years, we have seen so many project homes that don’t use a site well, have no regard to solar access or orientation, and don’t really suit the needs of the owners.
Amelia Lee, over at the Undercover Architect (which is an awesome blog, you should really check it out), has a great post about the generally poor design focus of many project home builders:
“The thing is that, in a lot of these companies, design isn’t a driving priority at the point the homes are designed/drawn up and included in their catalogue for sale. What is driving them? That they can be built economically, using systems already in place. In some, homes don’t go through any design review process. A draftsperson in the company draws up the home and if it meets the company criteria in terms of their delivery systems, material use, profit margins, etc – it gets added to the catalogue. In some companies, at no point is the house interrogated from a design point of view. It works economically and constructionally, but no one has actually tested if it works as a home to live in, and to live well.”
Good design means that your house will be fit for purpose. That means it will be oriented to be cool in summer and warm in winter, so your heating and cooling bills are as low as possible.
Good design means that the layout of your house is intuitive for the way your family lives. The spaces should be well-connected and logically arranged. The design should take into account how you will actually use your new home, so you can avoid those dark, oddly shaped rooms that are difficult to furnish. These spaces still cost money to build, but they don’t make your life any better.
Project homes are often sold as the only way for people on a budget to afford a new home. But it doesn’t really make sense to build a home that is expensive to operate, or with parts that aren’t usable.
Most project home builders have systems in place that allow them to streamline their back office functions and build economically.
Some project home builders offer a wide range of design choices, facades, finish options, and customisation opportunities.
Very few Coffs Harbour project home builders have in-house, locally-based building designers who will take your needs and requirements into consideration when designing a home for your family. That’s what makes a truly excellent project home builder.
Balance Design and Construction is a Design + Build firm. We have standard plans (check them out here). Some of our customers have found the perfect solution for their family and land with one of these existing plans. But we take great pride in crafting bespoke solutions for our clients.
Why pay for an extra bedroom when you will not use it?
Why swelter through summer in living rooms that face the wrong direction?
Why shiver through winter in a house that doesn’t take advantage of the sun’s warmth?
Get a house designed to suit your needs, your land, and your lifestyle.
Nope! That is the best part! We don’t charge a dollar more to build a home that has been specifically designed to meet your needs, compared to one of our standard plans.
So why settle for a project home designed to meet the needs of a building company? Choose a home designed with your family in mind! And choose to build with a local company that uses local tradesmen and local suppliers.
Every dollar your spend with a local builder stays in our community and supports other local small businesses.
The team at Balance provides expert assistance at every stage of the residential construction process, from initial feasibility analyses to final touch-ups. Our in-house design team has produced a portfolio of exceptional new home designs, and we also offer custom design services using state-of-the-art design software (including 3D renderings you can view on your smartphone or VR glasses!).
We have solutions for steep sites, beachfront lots, and unusually-shaped blocks. We take care of Council paperwork and approvals, and provide professional interior design advice to ensure your home is stylish and practical.
Seeking a construction partner for your next investment project? Balance are the Coffs Coast experts in townhouse and boutique developments, with multiple successful projects delivered over recent years, producing excellent returns for our clients.
We offer a unique service to investors, with our ability to handle every stage of your development, from early concept plans through to completion. We provide excellent value, and can even put you in touch with quality local real estate agents to help sell or rent your new development.
We also offer turnkey development solutions so investors can start earning a return sooner with less hassle.
Unfortunately, the big builders have convinced new home buyers that the only way to afford a new home is to settle for one of their standard plans or pre-arranged house and land packages. But why settle for a home designed for someone else?
A home designed to meet your specific needs may be much more affordable than you realise! At Balance, our pricing is transparent and we’ll happily tailor our designs to meet your budget and the family’s needs.
You’ve got nothing to lose – visit our display home, or give us a call today on 1300 056 298 to arrange a free consultation.