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How to Find a Home Builder: Where to look and questions to ask

Building your dream home is a once-in-a-lifetime project for most people so most people wonder how to find a builder. There are many places you can look for potential builders, from newspapers and real estate agents, to online and through personal recommendations.

When you have a shortlist it's important to know what to ask them and how to check their reputation and reliability. Fortress Home, Chicago guides you through the process of finding the right builder for you.

What sort of home builders do you need?

Depending on the type of project and level of involvement you want, will depend on what type of home builders you want to hire.

Do it for me

Most people will fall into this category - they have little to no experience in construction and have a busy life with no time to manage a complex project like the house building process.

If this sounds like you you'll want to hire a trustworthy general contractor who can help manage the entire process for you.

For people interested in custom homes you probably want your custom home builder to offer general contracting services too. Bespoke custom houses will probably require even more project management skills with custom materials like doors and windows needing to be ordered from specialist suppliers.

What does a general contractor do?

Depending on the particular services offered by the general contractor you choose they may have an in-house architect or design team who can help to design your dream home and buy land before construction even starts.

During the construction process, your general contractor will be responsible for managing the budget and schedule, ensuring all the materials are purchased and delivered on time, hiring all the required subcontractors and other workers, and ensuring the quality of the work.


A reputable general contractor will also be licensed and insured (check this) so your project will be covered by their insurance. Looking for a “Construction company near me”? Fortress Home is a builder with more than 20 years of experience.

Do it yourself

If you have some previous experience in construction and have a lot of time and energy to put into the building process you might want to project manage the build yourself. In this case, you may want to work directly with home builders, acting as the project manager yourself.

In this case, you will be responsible for all the tasks a general contractor would normally fulfill. These include:

  • managing the job site
  • hiring subcontractors where needed
  • purchasing materials
  • ensuring everything is insured
  • looking after on-site health and safety
 

This can be a major task and not one we recommend you take lightly, so think carefully about taking a DIY approach to the building process.

What about custom home builders

If you want a truly custom home, and know exactly what you're looking for, you'll need to make sure you're working with experienced custom home builders who understand and have experience in building the type of house you are looking for. So when you start asking 'how to find a home builder?' this will narrow your list of potential builders down considerably.

However, if you simply want to customize a standard house your choice will be much wider. Many production house builders and semi-custom home builders offer customization services on their standard houses and floor plans, allowing you to change different elements including:

  • floor plan layouts
  • fixtures
  • fittings
  • finishes
  • Get started building today!
    Custom Home Builders
    We will design a new home that fits your life by finding out what is important to you, your family and your lifestyle.

How to find a home builder in your area

So how do you actually go about finding the best builders in your area? We have a few suggestions to find the top builders for you.

Home builders' associations

Most cities or states will have a home builders' association which will have a list of all their members. This is a great first step to finding a builder, although you will still have to narrow down your list of potential builders by their area of specialism.

Local newspapers

The real estate section of your local paper is a great place for home buyers to look for builders for your new home.

Many builders will advertise their current projects when they have condos or new houses still for sale. Looking here you will be able to get a feel for their style of construction and their price range.


Real estate agents

Local realtors should be able to suggest possible builders for you as they will have experience of their previous work and know the style of work of each potential builder.

Personal recommendations

Using personal recommendations is a great way to not only add potential builders to your list but also do a quality check of their work.

How to find a good home builder

So we've looked at how to find a home builder in your local area but you also want to make sure that a home builder is the best one for your new home or custom home. So what should you ask potential builders and how can you check their reputation and quality before choosing your dream home builder?

Research

It's important to do your research before choosing a custom builder, or builder:

  • Online: The first place to check is to search online where there are many websites full of online reviews of general contractors, home builders, and custom home builders.
  • Personal contacts: If you know any previous clients of potential builders you can ask them for personal reviews or testimonials.
  • References: Once you have contacted a potential builder they should give you some testimonials from previous clients. It's a good idea to check references once you have them.

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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Visit

If possible you want to visit examples of a builders previous work and speak to the current inhabitants. Find out how the builders were to work with, what problems were encountered, and if the project was completed in a timely fashion.

You should also look at the quality of the build and finish to make sure it meets your standards.


Interview

When you have a shortlist of builders it's important to interview them, to find out more about how they work and also to see if you will get along with each other. You'll be working together for several months so you want to ensure that you and your project manager are on the same page.

Questions to ask

  • Are they fully licensed and insured?
    Make sure the license is valid in your state or city, and their insurance covers at least the cost of your project.
  • How long has their company been in business?
    At least 5 years is a good starting point, but longer is generally better.
  • How many homes have they built?
    Make sure some of them are in the style you are looking for, and if you are looking for a specific custom home builder, check they have previously used any specialist techniques required for your project.
  • Who is on their team and what work do they contract out to subcontractors? The more work that is done in-house by your house builders the fewer delays and cost overruns you can anticipate, as more is directly managed.
  • What type of materials do they use and how energy-efficient are their builds?
  • What is their usual price range and how much is your project likely to cost?
    Also, check how they deal with cost overruns and if they offer any guarantees about sticking within budget.
  • How long do they think you're project will take to build?
    Find out how they deal with delays and if they offer any guarantees about completing your project within a certain timeframe.
  • What additional services can they offer? Will they help with the design process? Can they help you find land?
  • Will they deal with all permits and how do they ensure building codes are adhered to?
  • What warranties do they give and what exactly is covered?
  • What can be customized?
    If they are a production or semi-custom builder check how much customization is allowed and do you have to use their standard floor plans or can you have a customized floor plan? What features can you add?

Frequently asked questions

How do I choose a home builder?

Once you have a shortlist of builders you should always do your research looking for personal opinions and online reviews. Checking reputation is very important.

You should interview your potential builder to make sure you will work well together and that they understand your project. You should also make sure they have the correct expertise and their estimated cost is in line with your budget.

How do I find a reliable builder?

To check the reliability of a builder you can ask them for their policies and guarantees regarding sticking to budget and managing schedules and delays. Even better you can speak with previous customers and check references. Pay attention to the quality of work, the attention to detail, their adherence to deadlines.

How do I find a good local builder?

To find a builder it's best to search locally. Ask your city or state home builders association for a list of builders, look in the local newspaper or ask a local realtor for suggestions.

Another great place to find a custom builder is to ask friends, neighbors, or local homeowners associations for personal recommendations and suggestions.

How much deposit should I pay a builder?

When working with a general contractor on a building project you should expect to pay between 10 - 25% of the total project costs as an initial deposit. Many states regulate the maximum size of the downpayment. For example, in California, it's 10% or $1,000, whichever is smaller and in Maryland, it's 30% of the project cost.

Illinois doesn't have any limits on the size of deposit or down payment, so you may need to negotiate. However, we recommend that, unless there's a very good reason, you shouldn't pay more than 30%.

How to find a custom home builder in Chicago

If you're looking for a custom home builder or regular builder in Chicago, make sure you add Fortress Home to the top of your list.

With over 20 years of building experience in the Chicago metro area, our family-owned business will be your trusted building partner. With our quality assured process your home plans will come to life with our trusted in-house construction team of experts. We always stick to budget and complete our projects on time so talk to us today about your new home build: +773-770-8607 or [email protected]

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Fortress Home combines the roles of a general contractor, a construction partner, and a construction manager. Our talented workforce helps us professionally manage all aspects of on-site construction.

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