What is a Spec Home?
Spec homes are some of the most important pieces of our business. A spec home is a custom home that we build from the ground up, make all design decisions on and then offer to potential customers for sale. As a company, we normally build about 12 – 15 homes a year. Included in that number are usually two to three spec homes that we have and offer for sale around the Pittsburgh area.
There is quite a bit of time, effort and thought that goes into putting plans and designs together for our spec homes. First, the most important part: how do we make the home appealing to a large group of buyers? Second, it is important to offer our various spec homes that we are building at different price points, so as to be able to entice multiple groups of buyers. Third, location, location, location. We must consider the various custom home neighborhoods that we are building in across Pittsburgh, where they are located (usually in proximity to the city), the school districts that they are a part of, and finally what county they will be built in (for tax purposes). Lastly, timing of finish is important as well.
How do we make the home appealing to a large number of buyers?
First, we need to see what has been selling quickly over the last four to six months. How many bedrooms, bathrooms, what style are the homes, do they have a finished basement or third floor level, do they have any special outdoor spaces, is there a price point that we need to not go higher than? Also, what current competition do we have in the market? Are there other homes for sale in the Pittsburgh area close to where we plan to start ours? If yes, what does that home have that maybe ours does not? From there we can select the floor plan, exterior design and interior features. As a custom home builder in Pittsburgh, PA, we pride ourselves at being out ahead of trends and really pushing the boundaries of design when we build our spec homes. Because our homes are completely custom built, they usually take ten to twelve months to complete, so something that might be trendy at the start of the build process may not be as popular when the home finishes.
Take for example a home that was for sale that we just finished in Mallard Pond in Baden, PA (about 25 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, located in Marshall Township). Initially when we conceptualized this design, we knew we wanted to go with more of a modern farmhouse feel to the home that has been so popular over the last two years in Pittsburgh. However, instead of designing the exterior to be a white home with black windows and accents, we decided to go the opposite route and do a dark grey, almost black home, with warm wood accents. We knew that a home with those color schemes was going to gain traction and popularity over the coming months and would really appeal to a buyer that was looking for something more unique and different. We ended up selling the home shortly after it was framed and the buyers loved the concept and design. We are now in the process of building three other homes that are looking to use the same exterior color scheme and have cited this spec home as some of their inspiration.
Price points and locations are another big part of the decisions that go into a home that is for sale.
First, we need to stagger the price points and sizes of the homes that we are offering to customers. This will cast a wider net out to potential customers that are looking for a home to purchase. It is also important to vary the locations of where we are building our spec homes. Right now we have a spec home that is being built and is available for sale in our Woodland Trace neighborhood in Adams Township and we are about to start another spec home in the Mallard Pond neighborhood in Marshall Township. Both of these homes are different sizes, have different aspects to offer to customers and are at varying prices as well.
Timing of finish is important to entice specific buyers to the homes that we have for sale.
The best times of the year to move into a new construction home are right before school begins (mainly for a lot of relocation customers that want to be settled with their families before the school year begins) and right before the holidays (again, the same rationale applies). If we can stagger the timing of our spec homes and make sure that we can enable the homes to be finished during one of those time frames, it will be more appealing to potential buyers.
Spec homes bring additional sales to our company and also bring us more potential customers. Sometimes customers love everything about the spec home that we have laid out, however, they may just need something slightly different to meet their needs (possibly an additional bedroom and bathroom, or a first-floor master). They then may want to make a few changes or tweaks to the current layout and instead of buying the spec home end up signing a contract to build their own custom home. It is great marketing for us in any given neighborhood and really allows us to showcase our product to the public.
All of our spec homes are available to purchase as soon as we get the foundation in the ground. The best part about purchasing a spec home at the beginning of construction is that you are able to make all of the selection decisions in the home, instead of purchasing the home at a later time once everything has been completed. This way you can truly make the spec home appeal to your tastes.