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If you want a custom-built home this year, don’t expect to move in anytime soon. “Right now, (building) a new house can take 12 to 18 months,” says Jeff Taylor, founder and managing director of Mphasis Digital Risk, a firm providing technology services to mortgage lenders.

However, there may be a way around those long wait times. Many builders have what are known as spec homes, which could shorten the move-in period to weeks rather than months. As prices for existing homes surge, they can also offer good value.

“Overbidding and high prices are making spec homes a great alternative for buyers if they can get one,” says Alexia Bertsatos, a real estate agent with EXP Realty who works in Arizona’s East Valley. “The price can be locked the moment the contract is signed, avoiding bidding wars and overpaying.”

If this sounds like a good option for you, keep reading to learn more about spec homes, their pros and cons and how to buy one.