Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Wherever good bikes are sold
Bikes: Thylacines...only Thylacines.
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You're pretty close - 500 - 5000 is actually the price range for custom frames.
Far be it for me to question what other builders charge, but I'm generally of the opinion that you need 1000 USD as a starting point for a TIG'd custom frame, give-or-take. Lugged a bit more - about 1500 as a starting point.
It's true there are cheaper custom frames out there, but from a good business practices, good judgement and good industry standards perspective, any less and from where I'm sitting a custom bike company won't have the added capital to improve their lineage, won't have the time to give you the service I personally think the customer should expect, and is generally lowering the standards of what customers should expect which is bad for the industry as a whole.
That's a lot to take in, but I feel I have to justify what I'm saying or otherwise I'm just plucking a number out of the sky. I'm sure others will disagree, but that's just what the sums and my experience as a professional tell me to be correct.
Now, as to your situation, it's common for people to have short inseams and longer torso-arms. Custom may be the only solution to your fit issues, so my recommendation is definitely consider a custom if you can swing it, because there's nothing worse than having to ride a bike that's too big for you just so you can get the reach sorted.
A good custom frame could potentially last you 10+ years, so compromising on some of the parts, or upgrading only when they wear out is a completely viable option. If you look at it as a long-term investment, it starts to make more sense than spending the next 10 years hopping from ill-fitting bike to ill-fitting bike.
Hope that helps!