Do you want to have a say in every aspect of your new home making it one-of-a-kind? Or would you rather buy a house that is already completely built and move-in ready? When looking at new home construction there are a few main paths that you can go and the best choice for you will depend on your preferences, budget, and timeline. Below we will break down the three common types of residential housing new builds. 

First, let’s break down what exactly a spec home, tract home, and custom home are.

What is a Spec Home?

Spec home new construction

You can think of spec built homes as move-in-ready homes. Spec is short for speculative, meaning the home builder is building the house on the speculation that they can easily sell it for a profit. They are constructed by a home builder who is likely building the same house or similar ones many times over. These houses are made to appeal to the widest range of home buyers possible. With a spec home, all of the options were selected by the builder so you won’t have a say in any of the features. Likewise, it is important that you go with a reputable home builder when buying a spec home so you know they didn’t cut any corners. This will ensure that you have a comfortable living experience and have reasonable quality products throughout the home. Generally, spec home builders have found a balance between amenity, cost, reliability, and performance. 

What are some of the benefits of buying a spec house?

To start off, you will be able to see the house ahead of time. There is no need to envision what your home will look like because you will be able to physically check it out in its entirety before purchasing. By being available immediately or in a very short period, spec homes eliminate the lengthy process of new construction. Usually, you can be moved in within weeks of first walking through the house. 

Sometimes spec homes can be purchased during construction and the buyer can choose some finishing options. 

Another benefit of spec homes is they’re usually reasonably priced. Going with a spec house will not only save time but also money when compared to a custom home build. Reputable home builders invest great amounts of time into developing blueprints and selecting products that help them work efficiently to create a reliable home, ending up with savings that get passed onto the buyer. 

What are some of the cons of buying a spec house?

The biggest con for most will be the lack of choices you get to make in the design of the house. If the house is already finished you won’t be able to make any choices, if it is not finished you may be able to make some basic changes such as paint or interior finishes.

Overall, spec homes are a good option for those who have a short timeline and want a great new construction house.

What are Tract Homes?

Tract housing subdivision

Tract homes are built in a housing development when a developer buys tracts of land and then divides it out into buildable lots. The developer usually has a couple different floor plans that buyers could choose from but that’s about it. All the materials are already selected and will be used throughout all of the homes being built. By buying large quantities of material the developer is able to get the best price. They will also be finished faster than other homes because the builders are constructing the same house over and over again leading to efficiency. Tract homes may already be built and you would choose a house with the floor plan you like most. Other times you will be able to choose and purchase the lot that you want and then choose the floor plan to be built. If you choose the lot and floor plan you may be able to make some basic changes but they will be very limited.

What are some of the benefits of buying a tract house?

One of the biggest benefits of a tract house is that the cost per square foot will typically be cheaper for the house than if you were to build it yourself using a custom home builder. There is also the benefit of the home being move-in ready or only being a couple months out from completion. Another advantage is the availability of homes, they are building dozens if not more at one time. This means there will be many houses that you have the opportunity to purchase, so if availability is a major factor then this could be a good option for you. If homes are not built yet, the developer may offer you a couple options to choose from for countertops, cabinets, siding color, and more!

You will likely find that there’s sort of a bad reputation for tract homes, such as they’re poorly built, have cheap materials, or will frequently need repairs. This is not true of all tract homes, some developers build exceptional houses with quality materials, reliable products, and warranty their work, while others may not. That is why it is important to do your research into builders and developers. 

What are some of the cons of buying a tract house?

A big one for some people is uniformity, all of the houses around you will pretty much look the same as yours. This lack of variety can be a turn-off for a lot of people and you won’t have much if any say over the features of the house. The same goes for the lot sizes typically found in developments. The lots are usually not that big and can range from having a nice size yard surrounding your house to only having a narrow strip between yours and the neighbors’ house. 

All said and done, tract homes can be a good bang for your buck option if you don’t mind being in a development where your house won’t be unique. 

What are Custom Homes?

Meiste Custom Homes, Lake front house

(Photo from Meiste Homes)

Custom homes are just as the name suggests. Custom home builders work with their clients from the ground up to design their homes. Often this will start with purchasing a lot and then developing a custom floor plan or selecting an existing plan. The client has total control over the details of the house. This is who we work with most here at Homestead Timbers and we have become a go-to for custom lumber needs. As I’m sure you’ve expected, custom homes come with a high price and the process for building a custom home will be longer than that of spec or tract homes.

What are some of the benefits of buying a custom house?

First and foremost, you are building your dream home. With the freedom to determine the size, floor plan, style, materials, etc. you will have a perfectly unique home tailored to you. This is an involved process and some clients will choose to work with an interior designer, some custom home builders have one on staff or you can find your own. Generally, custom home builders take extra time and care to ensure everything is perfect. This attention to detail is necessary as expectations are very high from the clients, it is a dream home after all. There are many great custom home builders in the west Michigan area and we are privileged to work with a number of them. 

Did you know that we also build homes? We specialize in log and timber frame homes! 

What are the cons of building a custom house?

There are a few cons that you need to take into consideration, such as the lengthy timeline and high cost. If you’re in a hurry to get into the house, this option is not for you. Compared to the other options it will take the longest by far as some custom home builders are a year out before they could get to a new client's house. The cost associated with building a custom home usually means that it will not be feasible for first-time homebuyers, these are not usually not starter homes. There are many decisions that need to be made and it can be an intensive process, so if you’re not up to committing to that, this would not be a good fit for you. 

Celebrity Builders custom home

(Photo from Celebrity Builders LLC)


No matter which way you choose to go, as long as the home is built by a reputable builder it should serve you well. There are pros and cons to each option depending on what your specific needs and wants are. We are proud to serve customer home builders and homeowners with our hard-to-find lumber products. We have a stock of quality tongue and groove paneling, nickel gap and shiplap, Montana Ghost Wood, Kebony, and Old Wood Surfacing!