Are custom homes worth it?

With the potential high cost and stress of a custom build, a lot of buyers are asking themselves: are custom homes worth it?

Our architectural technology firm designs custom homes for hundreds of clients across Canada. We’ve noticed an increase in clients looking to build from scratch as the real estate market becomes more competitive. 

Plus, in some cases, purchasing a property and extensively renovating or creating additions just doesn’t make sense. Planning a custom home ensures your wish list gets met and you get complete creative freedom. 

On the other hand, purchasing an existing home allows you to move in significantly earlier, potentially save some money up front, and enjoy the character of an older home.

If you’re still on the fence, we’ve put together a pro and con list so you can decide if a custom home is worth it for you.

The Pros of Building a Custom Home

1. You don’t inherit someone else’s mistakes

This is the biggest pro in our eyes! The difficulty of purchasing an existing property is there can be a lot of hidden surprises, cut corners, or quick fixes that won’t stand the test of time. Sometimes that includes very expensive mistakes like infrastructure, plumbing, or electrical issues that weren’t caught during the home inspection. 

Although custom homes seem like an expensive endeavour, renovations can add up quickly too. If you want to completely restructure an old home, prepare to have very flexible plans because, chances are, you’ll uncover issues that need your immediate attention.

You’ll also have to be the problem-solver if you’re looking to extensively renovate, that means reimagining the layout within the existing structural limitations. If this is feeling a bit daunting, reach out to a design firm (like ours) and they can restructure your space through custom, code-compliant blueprints.

2. Get exactly what you want

The most fun part of custom homes is getting exactly what you want. Maybe it gives you the freedom to get that view you really want, or the privacy from neighbours, or perhaps custom building means you can secure a much larger lot size. 

Do you want 5 bathrooms and a huge mudroom? You’ve got it. Have you always dreamed of an east-facing bedroom so you can watch the sunrise? If you know you want it, you can make it a priority in your home design. 

Plus, instead of inheriting a previous owners’ decorating choices, you can pick all those hard-to-change colours to match, from the flooring to the kitchen countertops.

With custom building, you really have the freedom to get exactly what you want. Keep in mind there are a few key things to look out for when buying land for your custom build to ensure you can build exactly what you want without running into zoning restrictions.


A man in a yellow hardhat stands in front of new built home.

3. Don’t compete in a seller’s market

It’s no secret that the real estate market has become incredibly competitive over the last year. But the market for vacant land isn’t nearly as vicious. 

Most likely, you won’t get caught in a bidding war for land right now – and you won’t end up significantly overpaying just to get your bid noticed. Many buyers are overpaying to get their hands on a home then having little to no renovation budget left over. 

If you don’t mind buying (usually) a little bit out of the city centre, a vacant lot to build a custom home on could be a much better investment than buying an existing home in a seller’s market.

4. Energy efficiency

Building from scratch means you can leverage the latest in energy efficient heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing technology – whether that’s just high-quality windows and insulation, or solar-panels, geothermal, and rainwater collection. 

Even if you’re not environmentally passionate, there’s still a huge economic benefit to making your home as energy efficient as possible. You could save thousands over the home’s lifetime by making your home more sustainable, or simply better at maintaining temperature. 

With an existing home, you can replace windows and seal up cracks, but you won’t ever be able to meet the energy efficiency standard of a new home due to advancements in materials and building practices. Let’s be honest, you’re never going to peel off the exterior limestone to install continuous insulation – plus that’s going to strip the home of the character you bought it for. 


A deck and backyard.

5. Aging in Place

Looking to the future, if you’re trying to settle in your forever home, custom building allows you to prepare for aging in place. 

You can size your doorways (widening them) to improve accessibility, reinforce walls for the future installation of grab bars, or create an in-law suite if you plan on taking in elderly parents, a caregiver, or for rental income to cover living costs.

Although it’s not as fun to think about as that huge mudroom you have on your wish list, custom building with aging in mind is incredibly practical – and will save you time, money, and stress down the line.

The Cons of Building a Custom Home

1. Supplies and labour shortage

The last year saw the cost of a 2x4 skyrocket from $3.40CAD to around $14. There has been a massive demand on construction labour and building materials, sending costs through the roof. 

Whether you’re custom building or renovating, you’ll need to pay for materials and labour. With a custom home you’ll require significantly more of these things than if you were renovating an existing property. 

Don’t let this put you off custom building if you’re going to be smart about your budget and make concessions when you can. The materials market is showing no signs of cooling off, so now could be as good a time as any to start.

Maybe you can get creative with unusual, recycled building materials or rescued wood for interior finishing to make it work under budget!

2. Longer Timeline

A large contributor to the timeline concern is the current strain on materials and labour. These factors could further extend the timeline for a custom home. 

Custom building isn’t like buying an existing home – you can’t move in a couple months after closing. You’ll have to find temporary housing while you wait months, potentially over a year, for the basics of your new build to be completed. But the results are worth it – and you don’t have to live through the mess of a reno!

3. Project Management

There are a lot of moving parts to building a custom home. Be prepared to shop around for the right designer, contractor, engineer, and/or interior designer. Further down the timeline you also have to coordinate electricians, plumbers – all kinds of professionals to get the finishing touches on your home. 

Organization is key, and it’s not uncommon to have a lot of stress associated with custom builds (this usually comes down to discrepancies in timeline and budget). But the good news is: there’s plenty of support if you need it. 

Consider hiring a project manager or set out a strategy in advance with your contractor so you can stay on time, and on budget – and save yourself that stress.

A bathroom.

Other small things to note:

  • Not everyone qualifies for a builder’s mortgage, getting a regular mortgage for purchasing an existing home can sometimes be easier.
  • We have to mention the old wives’ tale: you should live in 5 houses before you build your final dream home. We don’t recommend you base your whole decision on this one, but it does highlight the importance of knowing what you like! And the best way to know what you want is to know what you don’t want – so having rental experience is an asset, but if you know what you want then don’t worry!
  • The price tag for a custom home can be daunting – but take the time to compare the price with bidding on an existing home. Plus, remember that renovations usually come with many expensive, hidden surprises. Making changes can cost you more than you anticipate.
A man and woman sit together in front of a computer, smiling. The woman is visibly pregnant.

You’ve got this!

You’ll know what feels right to you when it comes to your dream home, but hopefully this pro and con list makes you feel more confident in your decision.

A lot of first-time home buyers don’t leave enough time for custom plans – they can’t be drawn up overnight. The sooner you start planning the better and having an idea of your plans will better inform your contractor choice and give you a more detailed perspective on timeline.

Looking for more Guidance?

If you’re looking for more guidance surrounding custom building, contact House of Three. We plan custom homes for clients across Canada so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re ready for some support –  if you want to speed up your timeline, check out our predesigned plans.