custom home

It’s a Buzz Word, but What Makes a Custom Home ‘Custom’?

We hear the term “custom home” thrown around a lot. And its meaning might seem pretty obvious. But between a home you purchase from someone else and a completely bespoke residence you designed in tandem with an architect, there is a lot of gray area!

From semicustom to personalized production to turnkey, the development industry is working with quite a few labels. So, we thought we’d chat today about what exactly makes a custom home “custom.”

floor plans

Photography by Lex Photography

Custom Home Floor Plans Are up to You

This is a big one, because even semicustom or personalized spaces don’t typically invite this kind of involvement so early on. Usually, the only way to work with an architect in designing your own floor plan is to build custom from the ground up.

That said, some semicustom or personalized homes might enable you to select your favorite of a few floor plans. Take our very own Upper East River, for example. In our Adler homes, there are three different model types—Meta, Lee, and Emma. Each has its own unique floor plan, so residents can find what works for them.

home building finishes

Photography by Edward Jenner

With Custom-Built Homes, Every Finish Is Thoughtfully Chosen

And therein lies the reason some people don’t want to build custom. If you’re a design lover or very particular about your home, the finish selection process is the dream for you. Buuuut, it is time-consuming and will likely frustrate someone who isn’t overly interested in interior design.

Putting one’s touch on every finish choice is a hallmark of custom home design. From the kitchen backsplash and grout shade, to the width and grain of the wood in the living room or the quality of the deck outside, there are plenty of decisions to be made in this department!

hourglass timeline

Photography by Samer Daboul

Details Are Usually Flexible in Custom Home Plans

Building a custom home is often the least predictable option. Well, maybe not as unpredictable as buying a historic fixer upper (hello, major unexpected infrastructure issue!). Still, when compared to other new build options or even more manageable renovations, a custom build is somewhat unknowable from the perspectives of timeline and budget.


Mainly because the cost and availability of materials and labor is always fluctuating. Pricing can change even from month to month. And when you’re bothering to build custom, you don’t want to compromise for what is currently available. If your dream quartz specimen will take 12 weeks longer than expected to arrive, you’re probably just going to attempt patience.

Still, all this can be an upside depending on your viewpoint. That’s the thing about building custom … it isn’t for everyone! But if you have been dreaming for years or decades of putting your touch on a wholly personalized home, you might hardly want the process to end anyhow! Extended timelines won’t be as frustrating for you. If you want space to be creative with decisions and enjoy the journey, it could be great!

map location of home

Photography by Aksonsat Uanthoeng

Building a Custom Home Might Mean Hand-Selecting the Location

This sounds exciting, and it can be, but the possibility of location compromise is important to understand before going the custom route. Many people who decide to build a custom home are faced with a crossroads. They’ve been searching for the right lot and are starting to realize they aren’t going to find it in the residential area they wanted or near their favorite shops and restaurants. This happens because residential areas are often built out very quickly once the first neighborhood breaks ground, and spots near downtown or city-adjacent areas are increasingly rare altogether.

If you love the home enough (and you should if you designed the whole thing!), this might not matter to you at all. Or maybe the whole point of your move is to be out amongst wide-open spaces. But if you like to be at least a short car ride, if not within walking distance, from certain things to do, a custom build might not be your best option.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have the home you want where you want … you might just need to be more creative—don’t forget about the power of a great reno!

home library

Photography by Ricardo Esquivel

A Custom Home Will Be Made to Suit Your Lifestyle

This is one of the big boons of custom home building. Whether you’re a lifelong reader who craves a sprawling library, an ornithologist with need for an aviary, or a health enthusiast who would benefit from a Himalayan salt cave, you could have it!

When you create a building from scratch, you can do almost anything you can dream.

Of course, that often leads to greater expense and time spent …

But that’s why it’s so important to weigh your personal pros and cons for custom, semicustom, personalized, and turnkey options. Remember that in the end, a home doesn’t have to be custom by industry standards to be the perfect place for you.


That said, we hope this blog post helped you understand what makes a custom home “custom.”

If you want to hear about the ways we personalize homes here at Upper East River, get in touch! Do also note that one of our home types, The Mayors, offers the option to custom design interior spaces with our architects.

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