What Is a Production Home Builder?

Very Few Customizations in Your New Home

Production homes under construction in California, 2015
Production homes under construction in California, 2015. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

A Production Home Builder builds houses, townhouses, condos, and rental properties on land that is owned by the building firm. Using stock plans, or plans developed by the real estate or building company, the Production Home Builder will construct a large number of homes each year. A home unit will be built, whether or not you, as an individual homeowner, will buy it. Eventually, the homes will be sold to someone.

The Production Home Builder works on the notion that "if you build it, they will come."

Production Home Builders do not generally undertake construction of unique, architect-designed custom homes. Also, Production Home Builders will not usually use construction plans other than the ones selected by the building firm. As more and more suppliers have come into the marketplace, production homes may be customized by offering a selection of finish options (e.g., counter tops, faucets, flooring, paint colors). Beware, however—these homes are not truly Custom Homes, but "customized production homes."

Other Names for Production Homes:

The building boom after World War II was exciting. Home ownership was an achievable dream for men and women returning home from overseas wars—the returning GIs. In time, however, these suburban neighborhoods were derided and became the poster children of suburban sprawl, blight, and decay.

Other names for production homes include:

  • cookie-cutter homes
  • tract housing

Where are Production Homes?

Suburban housing subdivisions are usually developed by Production Home Builders. On the East coast of the United States, Abraham Levitt and his sons "invented" suburbia with their mid-century homes in what became known as Levittown.

After World War II, Levitt & Sons bought tracts of land near urban centers—notably, north of Philadelphia and east of New York City on Long Island. These two planned communities, both known as Levittown, changed the way people lived in postwar America.

At the same time on the West coast, real estate developer Joseph Eichler was building thousands of homes on tracts of land near San Francisco and Los Angeles. Eichler hired California architects who became known for inventing what became known as Mid-Century Modern architecture. Unlike Levitt's houses, Eichler houses became prestigious over time.

Why Production Homes Exist:

Mid-century production homes exist because of these federal incentives:

  • The GI Bill—the federal government secured home mortgages for returning military personnel. It's reported that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backed over 2 millions home loans between 1944 and 1952.
  • Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956—the development of the Interstate Highway System made it possible for people to live outside of cities and commute to work

Production Homes Today:

It could be argued that today's production homes exist in retirement and planned communities. For example, house styles in the Town of Celebration, a 1994 Florida development, were limited in style, size, and exterior siding colors.

Advantages of a Production Home:

  • The homeowner's time is saved with limited or no choices available.
  • Production homes are often highly affordable because the developer can buy the same supplies in bulk discounts.
  • Mid-century suburban homes were often considered good "starter" homes for American families chasing "the American Dream."

Disadvantages of a Production Home:

  • Control of a large financial investment in real estate is generally surrendered to a profit-driven corporation. Construction materials and workmanship—two important aspects of architectural integrity—generally are not influenced by the homeowner.
  • Your "Dream Home" may be next to and look like everyone else's—not that there's anything wrong with that....

Role of the Architect:

An architect or architecture firm may work for a building company—or even own a development company—but the professional architect will have very little personal interaction with the home buyer.

Learn More:

  • Modern Tract Homes of Los Angeles by John Eng, 2011
    Buy on Amazon
  • Levittown: The First 50 Years by Margaret Lundrigan Ferrer, 1997
    Buy on Amazon

Sources: History and Timeline, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; History of the Interstate Highway System, Federal Highway Administration [accessed May 23, 2016]