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Display Homes: When You Are Choosing A Builder, How Important Are They?

As you are choosing a builder for your home, one of the questions you are likely to ask is: Do you have a Display Home?  What you may not realise is that judging a builder solely by whether they have a Display Home, or how many, will lead you away from a custom solution and into a land of smoke and mirrors that looks like quality for money; but usually isn’t.

Small to medium builders rarely have display home stock.  The builders who have a large selection of Display Homes will invariably be Volume Builders.  Why?  It’s all about money, and uniqueness of design.

Show Me The Money.  The average cost of a display home to a Volume builder is $500,000 at a conservative figure.  This is based on an average block of land at $200,000, a home at $200,000 and furnishings and upgrades at $100,000. Large Volume Builders have between 50 to 70 Display Homes advertised; sometimes they have whole display villages.  You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out the cost of 70 display homes at $500,000 each; that’s a cool 35 million dollars.  The builder will justify this (if you ask them) by explaining that they don’t own them, they lease them.  It doesn’t matter.  Ask your accountant.  It’s still 35 million.  The cost is enormous, and surprise surprise, this must be reflected in the cost of the house built for you.

Volume Builders need to appear inexpensive in the advertising material or the initial quote, but by the time you put some money down, the picture will change.  A good rule of thumb is, if you look at a Volume Builder’s advertised price, add 20% minimum to get near the figure you will ultimately have to sign in the building contract.  (If you have a sloping or challenging block, the figures will rise proportionately) What appeared to be good value is less so.

Quality versus Quantity.  When a client puts high emphasis on the importance of Display Homes, it is ironic because the only builders with this stock are generally Volume Builders who build sausage-machine houses. If you look at the truly lovely homes of your town or city, you will see that the more costly, elaborate, and luxurious homes were designed and built by bespoke builders.  These builders never have Display Homes, yet the families that employ them spend sometimes millions of dollars.

This is not to say that only the wealthy can afford a custom builder.  In reality, custom builders are often the more affordable solution, especially for a unique design or an unusual block.  Often clients who are considering a custom design will ask – do you have a display home of that design?  The answer of course is No.  Custom Designs are Custom, they are one-offs, and yours will be exactly like no other.  Does this mean that the builder can’t give you an image of what your house will look like?  Of course they can.  A good Custom Builder will be able to take you to another home under construction, and assist your imagination to relate it back to your design, and explain what your home is going to be like.  You don’t need a display home to know if a house suits your needs; you need a builder of quality and integrity, and you need a bit of imagination.

Smoke and Mirrors.  Display Homes are actually a lot of smoke and mirrors, and have little to do with the home that you will receive.  Be mindful that when you go to a display home, that logically the best house a builder ever builds, even a poor quality builder, will be their display home.  So what you are looking at is the best you will ever expect.  Never better.

Your imagination is not being assisted by a display home; it is being taken away from you totally.  You need to stop and ask yourself how this furniture, and these upgraded finishings, relate to your budget.  What furniture do you have at home?  How will it look in this house?  It is rare that people who buy a brand new house can also buy $100,000 worth of brand new furniture, which is what you will need to get the house that is in front of you.  A lot of items in display homes fall into the category of designer items; for instance, those polished porcelain tiles and stunning solid timber floors.  They are in the display home to make it look good, the builder doesn’t have them, they can’t provide them; it’s a designer item.

Remember, building a new home should be one of the most exciting and satisfying events of your life.  Yet so often it is the opposite!  The first step, which is choosing your builder, is one of the most important in terms of what your experience will be. Make this choice based on quality, integrity, communication, affordability and client feedback; not on whether or not the builder has a range of expensive display homes.

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