Our second home was what they call “semi-custom.” In a nutshell that means that you go to a mass builder, choose a lot from their open inventory, choose a plan from among the handful of choices in their book, and then you “customize.” In the semi-custom world that generally means choosing the colors for the stucco, carpet, counters, and tile and adding possible upgrades, like granite counters, nicer carpet, a window in the garage, or a door outside from the cabana bath.
Building a semi-custom home might mean you get a really good fit, but economies of scale in building come from building the same few houses, over and over and over. Your choices are limited and you ability to customize generally means minimal changes that won't affect engineering or city ordinances and permits.
Last year, I told you about the importance of choosing a lot before deciding on a home plan. When you build a fully custom home the sky's the limit. You are designing from the bottom up. To take full advantage of a custom build, finalize the house plan after you have selected a lot to build on! Make the home fit the lot. Take advantage of the lots assets an minimize its problems.
Yesterday I was out with the boys for my daily run when we happened upon a house that had a front-loaded driveway. It also had a circular drive that butted up to the front of the house, that was about eight feet above the sidewalk with a berming wall down to the sidewalk. As far as I could tell, there was no way for anything but a subcompact car to actually make the turn to get into the garage. Consequently, their pickup truck was parked in the drive right in front of the entry.
A related problem that is very common is homes with side-load garages that don't allow room to actually pull a car in. Do a little research before you plop that home near the property line. Find out what a reasonable turning radius of a car is and adjust accordingly.
Your building lot has a topography of it's own. When you build your custom home, don't fight the land. Work with the lot from the very beginning stages of design.