Delivery Strategy for your Home Project

So, you've made the decision to do a new build or remodel, but how exactly are you going to go about it?  Have you researched the delivery strategy for your home project?

Essentially, all home projects require three main things:

  1. A site to build your new home, or a home to renovate or remodel (and maybe add space).
  2. A home design (construction drawings (floor plans and elevations), interior design selections, landscape plan, permits to build the design if necessary)
  3. A team to get your new home built.

How are you going to decide how to get each of these three things done?  What options are open to you?  Which is the right delivery strategy for your home project.

There are several ways to go about bringing your home from your imagination to reality and that's what we'll be exploring in this topic.

delivery strategy for your home project

You can explore these topics below in the expandable sections.

  • Custom Build / Remodel - you find your site or fixer-upper, decide on who designs your home and who builds and manages the build of your home.
  • Design / Build firm - you'll likely find your own site or property to renovate and work with the same firm to design and build your home.
  • Tract or production home - you buy a home from a developer - site, design and build all in one.
  • Remodeling considerations - there are also some things to be aware of now, early on in your home project if you are considering a remodel as opposed to a new build.

But first...

How do I decide on a strategy?

When making a decision I find it helps to weigh up different options using different criteria. 

Throughout this section I've used four criteria you can use to guide your decision making - budget, quality, timeline and involvement.

Criteria for a home project delivery strategy.


This is key for most homeowners.  You need to be able to build your new home within your budget.


The quality of your finished home will depend on the quality of the design, the quality of the materials and the quality of putting it all together during construction.

The amount to which you want to customize your home design in terms of the floor plan, exterior appearance, and your interior selections will have some bearing on which strategy you decide to adopt.

You may be looking to design your home so that it's sustainable, or uses universal design techniques or other design philosophies.


Obviously, you’d like to be in your new home as soon as possible.  Some home project strategies will be quicker than others.


Do you see yourself being very involved in every step of your home project (find site, design and build), or only at some stages, or not much at all?

The 'Your Role' topic will help you figure out the extent of your involvement in your project.

The trick is to pick a strategy which fits with how you want to be involved.

Now that you've been introduced to the criteria (Budget, Quality, Timeline and Involvement), keep these in mind while we go through some different strategies to get your home designed and built.

Each of the sections below is fairly long so click to expand.

Strategy 1 - Custom Build / Remodel

We're going to start with custom build.  Let me first explain what I mean by custom build.

The scenario I'm referring to as a 'custom build' is where firstly, you find your own site, or maybe you already have a site or home to remodel. 

Secondly, you have a choice of how to go about designing your home.  These options are:

  1. Design it yourself
  2. Engage a design professional (architect, building designer, draftsperson, interior designer, structural engineer)
  3. Buy an off-the-shelf house plan (This is perhaps not all that custom in the sense of 'bespoke' but it is an option for you in choosing how you design your new home.)

And finally, you decide how you're going to manage the build of your home.  The options here are:

  1. Manage it yourself - Be your own General Contractor - You will coordinate all of the work.
  2. Share the management with your General Contractor - Get your GC to be the project manager for the majority of the work, and you can coordinate the rest of the work.
  3. Get your General Contractor to take the lead - Let your GC manage and coordinate all of the work, but you'll still be involved as the first port of call for any decisions during the build process.
  4. Get your design professional to be your advocate on your project and reduce your involvement.

You get the picture here - in a custom build, you select the site, then you have several options for how to tackle the design and build stages.

This means you'll be signing contracts and managing the relationship of all the professionals you choose to use.

Let's have a look in more detail at how each of the site, design and build stages might look on a custom project.

Site for a custom build project

If you already have your site or fixer-upper, you can just skip this step.

Be sure to pay close attention to the Your Site topic to learn how to get to know a site and how your home will fit best on it.

The main thing to remember about finding a site for a custom project is that it's on you to find the site.  You can get help of course, but finding your site can add significantly to your timeline and your site will also dictate some big design decisions.

Design for a custom build project

You many be considering designing your own home, or hiring a design professional or buying an off-the-shelf house plan.

Designing your own home

Designing your own home is certainly an option, and one that will give you unrivaled control over the final outcome. 

While you'll get creative freedom, without qualifications and experience you will no doubt have some knowledge gaps to fill.

You can certainly spend some time learning about design and construction but injecting some expert help can save you time, money and stress.

My preferred approach is to concentrate on defining your goals and your design brief and using this site so that you can learn about design so that you can be closely involved in your design process. 

By all means, design your own home as part of your design brief, then get that expert help to polish things up.

Buying an off-the-shelf house plan

Strictly speaking an off-the shelf house plan is not 'custom' design but it is an option open to you if you are going the custom build route where you're in charge of getting your design in place. 

There are plenty of companies that sell already designed plans off-the-shelf - ready to go.  Some of them are designed by architects or building designers and are great quality designs.

Most firms offer the plans that you'll see online in reverse and they can make changes (within reason) to the designs to make them suit your site and your lifestyle.

The key to choosing an off-the-shelf house plan is finding a plan that works well with your site and fulfills your design brief.  Check out your site and your design brief so that you'll be in a great position to evaluate house plans and discuss what you're looking for in a house plan.

Find out if you need an architect's stamp in your state.  If so, ask your house plan company if they get that done for you, or put you in touch with an architect that's willing to stamp the plans.

Even if you don't plan to choose an off-the-shelf house plan, it's well worth looking at a few to hone your taste in floor plans and home designs.

House plan companies tend to have quite up to date information on how much it costs to build their designs which reduces your risk of going over budget.

Hiring a design professional

Take a look at the 'Your Design Professional' topic to find out more about hiring your design professional.

Building a custom build project

The building stage of your project involves planning it all out.  What contractors do you need?  What supplies do you need?  When do you need the different supplies and contractors and where will you find them?  Then there's applying for the permits, coordinating the work and inspections, tracking the budget, making sure the work is up to scratch and being responsible for safety on site. 

The 'Construction' topic goes into detail about what it takes to build a custom home.

Custom build - summing up

Now that you've had a look at all the options, let’s look at a few different combinations (note that this isn’t an exhaustive list).

  • Scenario 1 – Find your own site, hire an architect for design, then hire a General Contractor for building.
  • Scenario 2 – You want to remodel your current home, design the new floor plan yourself and hire in trades as you need them.  You're good at DIY so you plan to help with the framing and tackle the tiling yourself.
  • Scenario 3 – Find your own site, choose a house plan, hire a General Contractor for building.

Let's have a look at how a custom build stacks up using our strategic criteria.


It's very easy to think that because of the custom nature of a custom build, it is bound to be the most expensive.  This isn't necessarily the case.  While you might spend money on professional design, clever design ideas might lead you to build a smaller home therefore saving you money.

If you're in a position to do some work on your home yourself (sweat equity), or manage some of the project yourself, that's another way of saving money.  But you'll need to weigh up the money you might save with the value of your time and the extra risks that doing it yourself entails.

If you're hiring a GC, you'll have been through a tender process to get several quotes for the work.  It's more expensive than managing all the trades yourself, but that's part of what you're paying for.


You'll have maximum design flexibility if you go the custom build route with everything from an off-the-shelf house plan to an architecturally designed home on the table.

You have the opportunity to design a home entirely bespoke to your requirements and to exploit all the opportunities afforded by your site.  Any requirements you have around design and building philosophies such as PassivHaus, LEED or Biophilic design can also be accommodated.

Since you can choose all the materials for your and your builder and associated building techniques, as well as being able to stipulate the quality of finish you require in your contract - you'll have full control over the quality of your home as well.

If you're doing some of the work yourself - you'll be judge and the inspectors will be jury over the quality of your own work.   Remember, if it goes wrong, it's all on you to fix it.


In general custom builds take longer to research, design and set up than other methods.  These projects usually involve a new design with a team of people that haven't necessarily worked together before and everything just takes a bit longer.

Remodels can throw your curve balls as you never 100% know what might come up once the project starts.  This can cause delays during construction.

The length of time it takes to build your home will form part of the criteria you use to choose your builder.  A large, well coordinated group of pros will be quicker to build your home than a small team. 


As it's a custom build, you have the greatest degree to choice about how much you want to be involved.

If you intend to be fully engaged in the design process of your new home, you’ll be spending time to communicate your requirements and ideas to your design professional (see the 'Design Brief' topic).  Then you’ll be reviewing the design at the different design stages and giving your final approval.

Where the time you put into your project really starts to build up is if you're practically full time on site, directing and maybe even doing some of the work yourself. 

Strategy 2 - Design / Build firm

Now let's move along and have a look at the second strategy - using a design and build firm.

Just as the name suggests a design/build firm take care of both the design and the build of your home.  Most firms undertake both remodels and new builds.

The key to working successfully with a design/build firm is to keep your eye on the ball throughout the different stages of the project.  You're hiring one firm, but you need to be happy with how they handle each stage of your project - the design and the build.

This strategy is simpler from a contract and management perspective because you're dealing with only one entity.

Site for a design/build firm project

Generally, you'll need to find a site for your project.

Some design / build firms may also be able to off your sites as well.  Finding a site can add significant time to your timeline so if you find a design/build firm that has sites to offer that you're interested in, this can be of significant benefit to your project.  It's still important to inform yourself about how a site dictates the design of your home. 

Design using a design/build firm

Design firms may offer two different options for your design:

  1. Work with their design professionals to create your home design.
  2. Use one of their off-the-shelf designs, possibly with a few changes to suit your lifestyle.

The main thing to remember here is that you are restricted to working with the design professionals for the firm.  Having said that, when you're looking around at different firms, you should get the opportunity to meet the people who will be helping you with the design.  Make sure you ask to meet their design professionals if it isn't automatically offered.

There's no reason why you shouldn't ask them the same questions that you would if you were hiring a design professional yourself.  The 'Your Team' section will help you with questions to ask design professionals.

If you've read through the content on House Plans Helper, you'll have great knowledge to be able to evaluate the designs presented to you.

Before the design work gets fully underway, you'll likely be asked to pay a design retainer.  This is a reasonable request since they are about to spend some more time on your project.  In advance of going ahead with paying the retainer, find out who will own the design at the end of the design phase.  If for any reason you need to part company with the design firm, will you be able to take the design with you?

Also check to see what degree of flexibility there is to choose internal finishes for your home.  Some firms may allow you to make selections from any suppliers, whereas others may work with a group of suppliers you will need to select from.

Notes exclamation

Beware of "free" design services

Some design firms may offer "free" design services.  As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch.  The cost of the design is worked into the cost of your home somewhere.  Have a think about what a "free" design phase might mean.

It might mean that the emphasis for the design build firm is to spend as little time as possible on your design, the main aim being to get you through to signing a construction contract.  This may not be in your best interests.

It's also almost certain that they won't release any design work done if you want to part company after the design phase, and instead will use the fact that you've spent time and effort on the design as leverage to get you to sign a building contract.

The above warnings may not necessarily be the case, but it's important to be aware of them.

Build using a design/build firm

If you go down the route of using a design/build firm it's likely that they will be taking full control over the build, looking after both the technical construction right through to installing all the finishes.

The advantage of this is it makes the build phase very neat for you, the customer.  There's only one party to coordinate with and to pay and it's clear where the responsibility for the build lies.

Design / Build Firm - summing up

Let's have a look at how a design / build firm stacks up using our strategic criteria.


You will have already read how important the input of a builder is during the design process.

On a design / build firm project, the design and build are automatically linked together.  Make sure you ask for regular budget updates as you go through to design process to take full advantage of this.


If you choose your design / build firm well doing your due diligence and continue to keep your eye on the ball throughout the project, you'll get a quality result in terms of the design and build quality.


The timeline will be dictated by the complexity of your project and how long it takes to get a building permit if you need one.

One great advantage of the design / build method is that there is much less time required during the tendering stage as there's only one builder involved.  Also the fact that they will be building your home is known to them throughout the design process so they will have your project on their horizon and will have time to plan ahead reducing project start up timelines.


You can decide how much you want to get involved in the design process.  When it comes to the build, using a design / build firm will allow you to have only a small amount of involvement during the build phase.

There is less freedom in who you choose to work on your project with a design / build firm.  However this can make things simpler as the number of people that you need to deal with personally can be kept to a minimum.

Finding a design / Build firm

A local real estate agent will be familiar with the design / build firms in your area.  An internet search of 'design / build firms in xxxx' will also throw up some results.

Design / Build firms - Using a prefab or kit home firm

Just before we leave the design / build firm space I want to bring prefab and kit homes to your attention.

Prefab (or pre-fabricated) and kit homes don't sound very glamorous but let me disabuse you of that impression.  They are usually architect-designed and some of them are fabulous and they shouldn't be overlooked for they have some advantages over other methods.


Going for a prefab or kit home can be one of the most effective ways of controlling the amount you’ll spend on your project.  These homes have been built before and are usually built by the company that designs them so they'll be able to give you a very accurate quote on what your new home will cost (perhaps not including foundation costs).

Many companies also have a selection of fixtures and fittings that you can pick from - helping you make choices early and lock in your cost.

Notice that I have talked about controlling and locking in your cost rather than reducing it.  A pre-fab home is not necessarily cheaper, but it can be quicker and also easier to control the quality  - read on...


You may think that a pre-fabricated home has no design flexibility, however some firms offer a choice of both pre-designed and custom designed options - both built by a prefab system.

Prefab and kit homes tend to have a different aesthetic and are unlikely to look like a traditional home.  The quality of prefab and kit homes tends to be very high.  Prefab homes are built off-site in factory conditions, similarly for all the components in kit homes.  Usually the company will send a team to erect the prefab or kit home which, because they've done it many times before, reduces the risk of shoddy construction.

These homes also tend to have good sustainability credentials.


Provided that your prefab home or kit home company is not too busy, this is a quick way of both designing and building your home.


Similar to off-the-shelf house plans, if you plan to buy prefab or kit home, it's still important to write a design brief and ensure that the plan suits your needs and is suitable for your site.  You may also go through a process of having some changes made to the plan which will require your effort and time.

Choosing a prefab / kit home

One company I have been following in the prefab space is Alchemy Architects.  They have a great brochure on their prefabs full of info.  The brochure describes the process, budgets, floor plans - just a really good overview.  (I'm not affiliated with Alchemy Architects in any way).

Here's a few other links worth a look to explore prefab and kit homes a bit further.

Prefab homes

Kit homes

Strategy 3 - Tract or Production developer

A tract or production developer usually buys up entire sub-divisions and builds similar homes on each lot.  They offer the land, design and build all in one package.  They're sometimes called cookie cutter homes.

These are sometimes known as cookie cutter homes.   Because the homes are similar and all in the same area, the developer can make savings on buying supplies in volume and building many homes to a limited number of designs all in the same location.

What does choosing a tract or production developer mean for you?  We'll look at site, design and build as we have for the other strategies.

A suburb of tract homes

Site for a tract home

There are two aspects to consider with respect to the site for a tract home.  The first is the location of the subdivision itself.  Then it's the site that you choose within the sub-division.  If you're in early enough you should have a good selection of lots to choose from.

The Site topic will help you make a really informed decision about which site you choose.

Design for a tract home

Production developers use a library of off-the-shelf house plans that you can choose from.  Usually each floor plan is available with several different exterior styles.

The house plans will likely have been designed by a design professional.  The trouble is, similar to off-the-shelf house plans, they haven't been designed with any particular site conditions in mind.

Because there's only a limited amount of designs and lots of different lots, it's important that you're able to discern which floor plans will be suitable for the lot you choose, and to be able to evaluate the floor plans with a critical eye.  This course will empower you to do that.

The advantage of a tract home is that there is often a display village where you can see the home already built which is great if you have trouble visualizing the design from the plan alone.

In addition to there being a limited number of floor plans, there's usually a limited number of finishes you can choose from as well.  For some this may come as a relief as there's often someone there to help you make your selections and it's bound to take less time if it's from a limited choice.  Another advantage of the display homes is that you get to see the finishes available.

For some the limited amount of design flexibility in terms of house plan and finishes doesn't allow them to express their intentions for their home design fully enough.

Build for a tract home

Similar to a design build company, the tract builder will take full control during the build process from the foundation to the light bulbs.  You decide everything up front then they build it.

Tract or production home - summing up

Let’s have a look at the tract or production home strategy using our four criteria.


This can be a good way to save money on your build as the developer is able to take advantage of volume discounts on materials and a well-oiled construction crew.

A tract builder can also usually offer you a fixed price (once you've made all your selections).


The main challenge here is to make sure that the site is suitable for the house plan and vice versa.  How much flexibility is there in terms of lots to choose from and plans to choose from?  Too often the house plan is not fully compatible with the site and misses out on the potential to make the best of among other things natural light and views and privacy requirements particular to the site.

Bear in mind that a developer’s business model is to build many homes quickly to their standard designs.  Their priority is their profit (fair enough – everybody’s got to make a living) rather than ensuring that your home is designed specifically for your needs, or the qualities of each individual site.  The quality of the design (one of your priorities) is slightly in conflict with the priorities of the developer.

Developer homes are built to a consistent quality as they are repeating the same building processes over and over again.

The bones of a tract home tend to be of the same quality as a custom home.  Some of the finishes available for you to choose from may not be particularly high quality.


No doubt, this is one of the quickest ways to secure your site.  The land is already acquired and the developer will usually have zoning approvals in place, if not full construction approvals.  Ask them what approvals are already secured.

Developer and volume builders can build homes relatively quickly, again because of the repetitive nature of what they do.

They can predict how long it take to build your home very accurately because they've done it before.

Streets of production homes


Because the choices of both house plan (floor plan and elevation) and interior design choices is generally reduced using this route, this can mean less time and mental energy required of you.

In addition, the developer will generally be managing the project so you’ll be pulled along rather than having to be the driving force.

There should be little effort and time required on your behalf during the build. 

Finding a Tract / Production developer

A local real estate agent will be familiar with the tract development communities available in your area.  If you want to do a bit of online research yourself to see what you might expect, here's a few of the largest tract developers.

Remodeling considerations

Tear down or remodel?

If you're wondering if you should tear down your home, or do a remodel, here's an exercise to help you make that decision.

Exercise header image

Exercise - Tear down or Remodel quiz

Are you allowed to demolish your home?

This is definitely the place to start.  Are there any zoning, planning or heritage restrictions that mean taking a wrecking ball to your home is out of the question?

A call to your local building department should get this question answered fairly quickly.

What can you build in it's place?

The 'Rules' topic helps you find out what zoning rules will apply which will determine what you can build on your lot once you've razed it to the ground.

Are you planning big changes?

If you're planning to gut your home and make lots of internal changes and perhaps add some space, then it's worth investigating the costs involved in the renovate/remodel/extend scenario and the teardown and rebuild scenario.

Work with a builder, design professional and structural engineer in whatever combination you need to assess the different options both in terms of design and cost.

Do you have the budget for it?

In general, the cost per square foot is less to build a new home than to remodel a home.  That said, it's always cheaper to make modest adjustments to the existing home.

Research the tax implications of demolition, renovation work and new build work.  In some states, the sales tax on these types of work is different and can make a difference to your budget.

Budget is one of the main drivers of decision making.  The only way to find out which option would be better from a cost standpoint is to do some research.  There are no shortcuts.

Are you attached to your current home?

Do you like your home?  If the way your home looks and feels to live in is a long way from your vision and no amount of design wizardry is going to solve it, perhaps it's time to say goodbye.  BUT - the look of your home may need to remain in keeping with the surrounding homes to get your building permit - bear this in mine.

If your home has sentimental value, you may be very hesitant to demolish it, or even change it too much.  If you were raised there, or you've raised your kids in your current home, it's natural to have a strong attachment to it.

Are there features of the current home that you especially want to preserve?

Does your current home have any heritage or design value?

I've already mentioned that if your home is on a list of heritage homes, there will be rules around what you can and can't do.

But there are plenty of homes that aren't on a heritage list but are still valuable because of their age, or style.   Is it worthwhile being a steward for your home and showing it the love it needs to make it a home for the future?

Think with your head and your heart

Notes heart

Emotions about your home can have a real pull on your decision making.  Keep your feelings about your current home in balance with the facts to make the right decision.

If your heart says keep it, but the facts and your head say that it should go, there may be some bits of it that can be preserved.  A beautiful photo of your current home that you hang in your new home might even be enough.

What state is your current home in?

How's the foundations, wiring, plumbing, insulation?  Are there any infestations or asbestos or creepy crawlies?  The more there is to sort out to bring your home into the modern age, the more it can make economic sense to tear down and build anew.

A good step is to hire a home inspector to do a health check on your current home.

Does it make environmental sense?

Your current home took energy to build so your current home has what's called 'embodied energy'.  It takes energy to demolish a home and process the waste, and it takes energy to build a new home.  It's just something to bear in mind and include in your decision making.

Remodel vs new build zoning and planning rules

In some areas, the rules for a remodel can be different to those for a new build.  The differences in rules could be about the amount of square footage you can build, or the stringency of energy efficiency rules, or some other rule.

If you want to take advantage of remodel vs new build rules, this could mean that you could knock down the vast majority of your current home, keeping perhaps only the front facade, yet your project is still termed a remodel or renovation rather than a new build.

Find out if there are any differences in zoning and planning rules for remodels vs new builds and find out to what extent you can demolish your current home and it still be categorized as a remodel.

What does your realtor think?

Give a local realtor a quick call and describe your project.  They will be able to give you an opinion on how the market is responding to new builds vs remodels.

Tear down or remodel - How to make the decision

So, if after answering those questions, a teardown might be an option for you, let's have a look at how you might go about doing some more research in a structured way.

The input required to make this decision is significant and there are no short cuts.  You'll learn something from all the exploring and research that you do so none of it is wasted.

Decision making remodel / teardown

Just move in

Moving in and waiting can be a valid strategy in some situations.

Firstly, it gives you the opportunity to get to know the existing home and where the design opportunities lie.  Once you've been through the material in design school, you may start to think about the space in your existing home in a different way.

Secondly, if the economic climate has pushed prices for your remodel or building project up it may be sensible to wait for a period for prices to come back down.

What is the minimum you would need to do to move into your new home?

Building permit and code implications

Sometimes when you undertake a remodel which requires a permit, this can trigger requirements for other areas in your home that you may not be altering to be brought up to code.

For example, let's say you're remodeling the back of your house to get a better connection to your yard, and as part of the work you're upgrading the electrics in your kitchen.  If the electrics in your home are old, this might trigger a requirement to upgrade the electrics throughout your home.

This can apply to other systems such as plumbing, or to stairs or egress being brought up to more modern code standards.

When you find out about your permits, find out is there are any implications for areas of your home which you might not be planning to renovate beyond an aesthetic update.

What strategy will you use?

Now that you've explored all the options for your project delivery strategy you'll be getting a feeling for which one will work best for you.  Or perhaps you feel there are one or two options worth more detailed consideration.

It's important to explore all your options, so don't feel that you need to make a final decision on any particular strategy now.  It can make a lot of sense to investigate several strategies alongside each other, even investing some money to fully investigate strategies to find out which one will work best for your project.

home project playbook project delivery strategy

The Playbook is a work in progress.  Anything without a link is coming soon.

Phase 1 - Project Preparation

Phase 2 - Design Preparation

Design Research

Your Design Professional

Phase 3 - Design

Site Analysis

Schematic Design (Floor Plans & Elevations)

Design Development (Detailed Design)

Construction Documents

Phase 4 -  Construction

Your Contractor / Builder

Your Contract

Building Your Home