What Is a Spec Home: Pros and Cons


Building a home involves a lot of big decisions. Luckily, prospective new homeowners have options. While many people opt for custom builds, choosing a spec home is also a valid and popular choice. This article answers the question, “What is a spec home?” and provides some advantages for choosing this option.

What Is a Spec Home?

A spec home is a property designed with no buyer in mind. A builder first purchases a lot and then designs and builds a home to sell it once completed. Sometimes the home is sold during construction, but often, these homes will be completed before they are sold.

Custom builders like to build spec homes because it’s a way to showcase their craftsmanship in a real-world environment. Larger builders have entire communities, sales centers and model homes, so in a way, a spec home can be viewed as the smaller, custom builder’s “model home.”

Who Builds a Spec Home?

Building a home “on spec” simply means that a builder speculates that the up-front investment he’s making on the home (for land, design services and materials) will eventually sell.

There are several types of builders in the industry – custom, tract and spec – and oftentimes, builders that build custom homes may also build spec homes. If you are familiar with Pittsburgh’s Festival of Homes, you’ll better understand what a spec home is – as some of those homes entered by custom builders are built on spec.

What Are the Advantages of a Spec Home?

The main difference between custom and spec homes is that the builder largely decides the design of a spec home before they even break ground. By contrast, a custom home design will be tailored to the homeowner’s request. This fundamental difference gives spec homes three main advantages:

It’s ready almost immediately.

Spec homes are usually up for sale just before the building is completed, which means a buyer can move in quickly – the biggest hold up is the paperwork. A spec home is a great option for someone who needs to find housing rather quickly – such as when relocating to the Pittsburgh area.

It’s brand new.

Who doesn’t love a newly built house? The excitement of getting a brand-new home is great. As builders have invested a lot upfront, they will be keen to make a sale soon after the build is complete. While not always the case, depending on how early you express interest in purchasing the spec home, you may even have the option of choosing a few of the fixtures and finishes – to make the home a bit more customized to your tastes.

You can check it out before buying.

Building a home is stressful, no matter how easy the builder makes it on you, and it’s hard not to worry about or micromanage a custom build. A ton of decisions need to be made and you need to give the project a lot of energy and attention. On the other hand, spec homes offer you the chance to explore and inspect every nook and cranny of the home before you ever strike a deal. You get all the benefits of a newly crafted home without the time commitment that is required during a custom-built home project. 

What Are the Downsides of a Spec Home?

Having looked at the benefits of building a spec home, let’s look at some downsides.

With custom homes, you can design and plan the build to match your vision. With spec homes, most of the big choices will already be made by the time you see the home – such as architectural style, interior layout and room configuration. Other items such as finishes, fixtures, flooring choices and paint colors may have already been selected by the time you come across the home. If that’s the case, simply have a conversation with the builder to see what, if anything, you can change.

Spec Home vs. Custom Home – Which Is Better?

The decision between a spec home and a custom build is entirely personal, depending on your lifestyle and preferences. If you’d prefer to be involved in creating your dream home, perhaps custom is the route for you.

However, if a quick and easy move into a brand-new home sounds better, a spec home can offer you a great bargain. You might not get to make many decisions, but less time will be involved.

Both have their advantages. The choice is yours.

Prime 1 Builders built a spec home in Upper St. Clair on a 1+ acre lot. Read more about this beautiful spec home >>

Are you interested in building a custom-built home in the Pittsburgh area? Contact us. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk about designing and building a home just for you.