What is a Production Home?

Production Homes are what I call houses that are built by developer/builders. The ones who build large-scale shoebox developments – the big names that come to mind in Ottawa, ON are Mattamy, Minto, Tartan, Urbandale, etc. Some refer to them as Community Developers, Builder-Grade Homes, Track Homes, Cookie-Cutter or Construction Builders… Essentially, a developer will take a large piece of land, divide it into dozens (if not more) individual lots and build a community of houses which can include a mixture of single, semi- and town (or row) houses. In order to make the project feasible, the developer will usually have a set number of models/floorplans for you to choose from and there is very little flexibility with making structural changes to those plans.

Pros of buying a Production Home:

There are many good reasons to buy a Production Home – I should know, we’ve bought two in the last decade.

For starters, when you buy a Production Home, the builder will usually require a deposit (often it is less than $50,000.00CDN) which you can pay over a period of months; thereafter, unlike when you’re building a custom home, you have very little additional costs until the home is actually complete and you arrange for a mortgage to finalize the transaction.

Time is also a big reason people are attracted to Production Homes. Generally, by the time you choose your lot, plan and pay the deposit, there is anywhere from a 6-12 month waiting period where you get to see your house being built. For many, this allows you time to save and prepare.

Finally (although there are many other reasons to like Production Homes), knowing that you have a set number of floorplans to choose from makes the initial design stage very easy. You don’t have to worry about number or size of windows, price per square footage, wall locations, etc. because those things are generally pre-determined and cannot be altered. For those that do not want to be bothered with the nitty-gritty details, Production Homes are the way to go.

Cons of buying a Production Home:

In my opinion, the biggest turn off for a Production Home is sharing your street and community with dozens (if not hundreds) of other houses. It sometimes really does feel as though the houses are built one on top of the other. By way of example, two regular Production Homes will usually be separated by maybe 8 feet of distance – enough that you can walk through the side of your house but not quite enough that you aren’t able to see what your neighbour is having for dinner or watching on television… The size and congestion within the community also spills onto the streets, especially during the Canadian winters when street parking becomes nearly impossible due to the already tight space on the roads and the growing snowbanks.

My second pet peeve with Production Homes is the inability to change almost anything structural within the house and the finishes on the outside of the house. If you’ve ever driven in these communities, you know that the exterior of all houses – regardless of the floorplan or model chosen – usually all look alike : a specific type of brick/stone mixed with vinyl siding on the front of the house and then the three other sides of the house are usually vinyl siding or an aesthetically similar look to vinyl siding. While you can somewhat pick the ratio of brick to siding (normally there will be a number of exterior elevations available for each model), the color scheme and materials used is the same for all houses within that community.

Cost can be another deterrent with a Production Home. While the ability to only have to pay a deposit (that is often less than 10% of the purchase price) is very appealing – especially when we were first time homebuyers – the flip side of this convenience is the fact that Production Home builders will generally charge a huge up-charge for any upgrades (i.e.: app. $350 per potlight). In our experience, it meant that we would usually choose a base finish that was included in the price (such as a pedestal sink in the powder room or basic plumbing fixtures), with the intention of changing it and making it our own later. So we effectively paid for things that we intended to throw out at a later date – not very cost efficient when you look at it that way.

Debunking the most common Production Homes myth:

Too many times, I’ve been told not to got with a specific builder/developer because they have a bad reputation and a history of shady work. Don’t be fooled by this!

One of the many ways that Production Home builders/developers are able to keep their costs down and actually make money in these projects is to subcontract the majority of the actual build to other contractors. The reality is, in Ottawa anyway, it doesn’t matter if you choose Mattamy, Tartan, Minto or any other of those big developers because, chances are, they are all using the same or similar subcontractors to do the work. You may end up with a wall that is crooked or poorly installed tile or a host of other problems that are not actually a reflection of the developer that you choose but, rather, the trades that have done the work.

For example, our first home was a semi-detached built by Tartan Homes. In general, we did not have any issues with house – it was built and functioned as we expected. Our neighbours, who had a similar model, spent months making appointments with Tartan after they closed to rectify issues in their home. Our second home was a single family house built by Mattamy Homes – I kid you not, we were the only house in our entire Mattamy community that had our siding fall on all 4 sides of the house at least 5 times! We spent the better part of our first two years in the house contacting Mattamy to have them do the repairs.

The fact is, my lack of problems in our Tartan home and my siding nightmare in our Mattamy home is not a reflection of either developer per se – it is simply luck of the draw.

My best piece of advice when choosing a Production Home builder is to focus on all other things (cost, location, model, design, etc.) and not dwell too much on the “word of mouth” reputation that they may have.