Cost to Build a Custom Home: Your Essential Guide

So you've decided to build a house and are considering building a custom home. One of your first questions will be 'how much does it cost to build a custom house?' This will vary depending on numerous factors, like location, style of the house, and standard of finish. Working with a reliable and straightforward general contractor, like Fortress Home in Chicago, will ensure your residential construction cost remains within budget, and your dream house is completed exactly as you imagined it.

Why choose a custom house?

If you're planning to build your own home you may be wondering what are the benefits of building a custom house.

  • Custom-built homes can be built to your exact specifications. If you've always wanted a modern house with an open-plan living area and an internal balcony overlooking the lounge, you'll probably need to build your own house.
  • Custom houses can be built in harmony with the natural environment. If you have a plot of land in a more rural setting and you want your house to blend into the countryside, you will need to work with an architect to design a house that works with its surroundings.
  • You need a larger or smaller house than available in your desired neighborhood. You've been hunting for the perfect house in the ideal location but none of the houses match your expectations - they're all too small or too big. Why not get the square footage you need by building a custom house?
  • You have an unusual shape plot of land. Perhaps you have a very long and narrow plot of land and want to build a house. Existing home designs are unlikely to fit, so why not work with an architect to design something to make the most of the space you have.

How custom do you want it?

When it comes to building a custom home you have a couple of options, depending on how specific and unique your needs are. These will both have an impact on the cost to custom build a house.

Semi-custom houses

If you are looking for a fairly standard house, with a modified layout and custom finishes, the process is fairly straightforward. You can find home builders who build houses similar to the one you are looking for and discuss customizing one of their existing home plans. They will probably have some existing plots of land where they can build your semi-custom house and will be able to advise on the building costs and upgrade costs for your custom finishes fairly quickly and easily.

Custom dream home construction

If what you are looking for, in your dream house, is a fully custom home and you know exactly what you want, the process is more complex.

You may already have your own plot of land or have a lot in mind. In that case, you can work with a trusted architect and builder to draw up the floor plans to your exact specifications and work out the full house cost based on your precise requirements.

This will be a more lengthy process, especially if your dream home requires lots of high-end materials and non-standard units.

Choosing the right home builders

When it comes to choosing the home builders to build your custom home you'll need to make sure they have experience in building not only custom homes but also the style of custom house you want to build. Here are some other things you should check when choosing the right builder for your dream house.

  • Do they have relevant local building experience?
  • Have they got testimonials from previous clients? And even better, can you visit completed examples of their work?
  • Are they fully licensed and insured up to the total project cost?
  • What is their price of building a home and do they guarantee to stick to it?

In Chicago, Fortress Home check all these boxes and more and are a trusted partner when it comes to building a custom home.

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    We will design a new home that fits your life by finding out what is important to you, your family and your lifestyle.
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Finding the right builder

To find the right general contractors or builders here are a few ideas:

  • Speak to a local real estate agent
  • Check with a local homeowners association
  • Look at local new home construction projects and see which builders are responsible for them
  • Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations

Factors affecting the cost to build a custom home

In order to get accurate project costs when speaking to a builder or contractor you need to consider several factors to calculate your custom home costs

Location and land

One of the biggest factors affecting the overall cost is the location and whether you already own the land or not. In desirable neighborhoods, land prices can be very high and can eat up a large chunk of your budget, but in quiet rural areas, the cost of land will be much lower.

If you already own a plot of land you might save a lot of money. However, there will be other costs to consider, like preparing the land for building and getting utility hookups, before you can break ground.

Size of house

The size of the house you want to build will play a large part in calculating the total cost. A larger house requires more materials and takes longer to build, increasing the labor costs.

Style of house

The style of house you choose will play a large role in the total project cost. Modern houses, with large custom glass windows and exterior doors, will be a lot more expensive than a simpler wood-framed house.

The more unique your house is the more expensive it's likely to be, as you'll need to order in custom windows and doors and won't be able to take advantage of cost savings that come with using mass-produced materials in standard sizes.

Level of finish

The level of finish you require in your house will play a part, with simpler standard finishes being a lot less expensive than luxury fixtures, fittings, and finishes. Those custom granite countertops for the kitchen may be an integral part of your design but they will certainly add to the overall price points.

Landscaping and extra features

When working out the actual cost to build a house don't forget to add on the cost of landscaping, or you'll be living in the middle of a dirt lot for a while. You also need to take into account any additional features like swimming pools, decks, and fencing.

Recommended reading

Custom homes on your lot!
If you currently own a lot, or need help finding one, Fortress Home is excited to offer comprehensive on-your-lot home building services. We have many ideal floor plans for building on your lot, don't worry - we can modify our standard plans or develop a fully custom plan just for you.
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So what does building a custom home cost?

While it's difficult to give a precise answer to the question 'how much does a custom home cost to build?' we have some approximate costs. All these costs exclude the price of the land.


Depending on the style of house you are building, how complex a project it is, and the expertise and fame of the architect you choose you can expect to pay between $15,000 to $80,000 for your house plans.

If you're spending all that money on the design of your house, you might also want to ensure the interior design of the house matches the quality of the structure. For a high-end designer, you might pay from $30,000 to $50,000.


According to HomeGuide, the average cost of building a custom home is between $200 - $550 per square foot, much higher than the usual cost of building a standard house which is between $100 - $200 per square foot. So to translate that cost per square foot into house prices:

  • 2,000 square feet: $400,000 - $1.1 million
  • 2,500 square feet: $500,000 - $1.38 million
  • 3,000 square feet: $600,000 - $1.65 million
  • 3,500 square feet: $700,000 - $1.93 million
  • 4,000 square feet: $800,000- $2.2 million

At the lower end of the custom-house price range, you can expect more traditional building materials and more standard finishes but at the higher end, for your luxury home, you might expect wooden floors, granite or marble counters, and rain showers.

Frequently asked questions

Is it expensive to build a custom home?

Generally speaking, it's more expensive to build a custom home than it is to choose a 'spec' home or standard house plan.

When you build a standard house the construction company knows exactly how to build this particular structure so will be able to do so quickly and efficiently, keeping your residential construction costs to a minimum. A house like this will also use standard materials, which are generally cheaper and easier to obtain.

Custom homes are often made from higher-end materials with more glass, stone, or expensive wood. The materials will have to be custom ordered and produced, especially if you have non-standard sized windows and doors, or even expanses of glass walls. All these costs add up and result in a higher average cost to build a custom home.

Is it cheaper to build a house or buy one built?

Until recently it was usually cheaper to buy a house, although that varies depending on the location and type of house you were looking for.

However, in the second half of 2021, the housing market boomed, increasing the prices of existing homes and making it cheaper to build a new house in much of the country. The average cost to build a new home is $287,466, according to Home Advisor, but the typical cost of a single-family home, nationwide, as of September 2021, was $308,220, according to Zillow.

In Illinois, the gap between buying and selling is smaller with the average cost of single-family homes being $233,661, as of August 2021. Please note, this does not take into account the difference between rural and urban areas.

How much does it cost to build a custom 4000 sq ft house?

It's very difficult to say exactly how much it will cost to build a custom home, without the full specifications for finishes and materials, but more square footage is more expensive. However, according to HomeAdvisor the average cost for custom homes is between $300 and $500 per square foot. This means that the total cost for a 4,000 square foot house is likely to be between $1.2 million and $2 million.

How much does it cost to build a custom modern home?

When looking at the cost of building a custom home it is generally more expensive to build a contemporary or modern house than a traditional house.

Modern houses require clean lines and a high level of precision to create that effortless minimalist feel. With more open spaces and fewer walls, the challenge is structural, ensuring that the building is solid, especially if some of those walls are glass.

If you are looking for a modern house custom home builders' prices will generally be higher too, as they require specialist skills and knowledge to build a non-traditional house.

Building a custom home in Chicago

If you've been imagining your dream home for years and are ready to start the exciting process of building a custom home in Chicago, contact Fortress Home today. With over 20 years of expertise in bringing people's dreams to life, Fortress Home is the ideal partner for this momentous project. With an eye for quality, a reputation for reliability, and the highest standards of construction, we will make the home building process as straightforward and stress-free as possible. Call us today to discuss the total cost of building a custom home: +773-770-8607 or email [email protected].

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What is the main asset of a construction company? Everything is simple. This is not an investment, not funds in the company's account. These are those unique houses, apartments, and buildings that have already been built and put into operation by the company. In different architectural styles, other concepts, and various tasks assigned to the general contractor. That is the asset in Fortress Home, with over 300 homes from more than 20 years of operation that delight their families.

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