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Builders allow some changes to house plans

Home builders like happy customers. But they don't like expensive and time-consuming delays.

That's why most builders limit the number of changes a customer can make to their home plans.

At Hannah-Bartoletta Homes, which is building John and Debbie Pitcairns' custom house, customers can make up to 50 minor plan changes for free. After that, each change costs $10 _ plus materials.

"Fifty changes are a lot," said Tiffany Whitehead, the Hannah-Bartoletta saleswoman who sold the Pitcairns their house. "I've never see anyone make that many changes."

Hannah-Bartoletta is a custom home builder. Custom builders usually allow their customers to make more changes than so-called "tract" or "production" home builders _ and, as a result, typically charge more for a house.

Production builders generally have several model homes and allow few major changes to the design of those models. Production builders are typically larger home builders, like U.S. Home Corp., Centex Homes or Pulte Home Corp.

"There's a big difference when you're buying a (production) home compared to a custom home," said Jay Shackford, spokesman for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.

"Buyers (of production homes) are going to be allowed to make a few changes and selections early on," he said. "But by and large, depending on the builder, they're going to have little latitude to make other changes once they get into the construction process."

It's not that production builders don't want to accommodate their customers, Shackford said.

Builders make a certain amount of profit on each portion of a house. Major changes could diminish those profit margins.

Builders also know how long it takes to complete their models. Changes could delay completion of a home and also delay completion of other homes he or she is building.

Also, major changes could affect the mortgage loan on a house that is financed, Shackford said.

That too could result in significant construction delays.