Calgary Home Building 101: What are “Specifications”?

Posted on May 18, 2018 by Peter-John Woolf


Visiting a showhome parade is your chance to imagine life in a new home and a new neighbourhood. It’s fun to see the latest designs and explore possibilities while comparing different properties to see what appeals to you.

Some of us have a laundry list of must-haves when we start ‘show-homing’, while others may start unsure of what features are really important. Some home shoppers will look for stylish finishings while others want to know about construction details, like the foundation or framing details. Specifications encompass all of these things.

Knowing what specifications are and what they mean can save you money and lead you to the right builder. Here we outline why this often repeated builder term actually means so much to buyers.

Do Specifications Matter?

Simply put, specifications are all of the materials, features, and selections that make up a finished home. Learning about standard and upgrade specifications is crucial to determining the ultimate price of your dream home.

Tracked on a specification (or “spec”) sheet, specs outline everything that will go into building your new home. This form is part of your purchase contract and specifies what materials will be used during the construction of your new house. Spec sheets detail your floor plan and explains in detail both the features you see — like bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances and flooring — and everything you can’t see — like framing, heating and cooling systems, and energy efficiency features.

To first-time homebuyers, a spec sheet can look like nothing more than an endless list of items. Once you dig into it, however, you will start to understand exactly what is included in your new home. Each item listed will be of a certain quality and knowing what you’re getting will help you determine if you wish to make some upgrades or if the standard specifications are already of the quality you are looking for (more on this coming up).

spec-sheet-calgary-home-builderComparing Apples to Apples

Speaking of standards, it’s important to look at the standard specifications offered by any builder you are considering working with to create your dream home. Even within communities, standards will vary quite a bit; this is where that spec sheet can really help you.

Initially, you might find one builder’s pricing to be more attractive (read: considerably less) than another. By reviewing the different materials on each builder’s specification sheet, you can start to see the differences and understand the reason behind each quote.

A significant price difference between home prices is one clue that you should compare specifications.
As an example, one builder may use a cheaper vinyl siding that won’t look as good or last as long as their competitor. Factoring in the cost to upgrade to the higher quality siding on the less expensive home will build a full picture of your total costs and a true comparison of price.

Comparing the specifications in this way truly helps you determine who is providing the most long-term value and a better quality home.

The Higher Quote May Save You Money

Homebuyers often discover that a quote that’s too good to be true often is. It turns out that, sometimes, investing in the right home features upfront saves you even more money in the long run.

Essentially, when you start with a higher standard spec product, you minimize the upgrades necessary to get the quality you want for your home. For instance, you may be getting granite with all the homes you’re comparing, but is it good granite?

Likewise, you may like everything about a floor plan, but you want to make a couple of changes. Does the builder allow changes? If so, how much extra will it cost?

Depending on the builder these upgrades and changes may cost you considerably more than another builder with only a slightly higher initial quote.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

Your Area Manager is a great resource for learning more about your new home. Talking to them about what you’re looking for and explaining what’s important to you will ensure your new home is everything you want it to be.

Your Area Manager can also help you understand what comes standard with a home and upgrades may be attractive to you (or may be unnecessary).

At first, it may be overwhelming to see everything written-out on a spec sheet and there may be many builder terms that you are not be familiar with. This is where your Area Manager can again give you clarity; with a little bit of guidance you’ll be thinking and speaking like a pro builder in no time!

Topics: new home build, new home construction, buy a new home, first-time buying