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The Ultimate 16 Questions to Ask a Home Builder

You've decided to build your own house, either with a standard home builder or custom home builder and you've got a shortlist of qualified local construction experts. Now you have to make the tricky decision of which builder to work with. To help make your decision easier the team at Fortress Home has put together the definitive list of questions to ask a builder before hiring them.

From how long the project will take to their quality assurance process, we've got you covered. For a no-obligation consultation with our experienced team of custom home builders in Chicago, talk to Fortress Home today: [email protected] or +773-770-8607

General questions to ask a home builder

We've decided to divide the important questions you must ask your builder into general questions you should be asking any builder and more specific questions to ask custom home builders, to help you find the right home builder.

1. How many years have you been in business?

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, it takes from 3-5 years for a contractor to establish a solid business, so we always recommend working with a well-established, financially sound company.

At Fortress Home we have been building custom homes for over 20 years and have a solid business foundation for you to rely upon.


2. Can I visit any of your previous builds or any ongoing construction projects?

It's always a good idea to see actual examples of home builders' work before deciding to work with them. Maybe they have a show home you can visit, or even better, some previous home buyers will let you visit their house. You can also ask if you can visit an active building project to see the contractors' work in action.

If you are building a custom home you might want to ask to see a portfolio of a wide range of their other custom projects, to give you a clear idea of their style and standard of work.

3. What warranties do you offer and what repairs will you do after I move in?

Homebuilders will generally offer some sort of warranty on their work and will repair or replace faulty units or materials after you move in. But it's always a good idea to check how long their warranty is valid for, exactly what it covers and what isn't covered.

4. Are you licensed and insured?

Making sure your home builder is fully licensed is essential as this will give you the reassurance that they are qualified and insured. Your local government building department should have a register of all licensed general contractors.

It's also important to check the level of insurance, especially if you're building a larger or more expensive custom home, or luxury home. For example, in Chicago Class E general contractors are insured up to a maximum of $500,000, whereas Class B are insured up to $10 million.

In Chicago, you can contact the Department of Buildings to check license status and class of general contractors.

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5. What makes you stand out from the competition?

Every contractor or builder will answer this question differently and we think their answers can be quite revealing about the way they work, what they prioritize, and how they will be to work with.

6. Who will be managing my project and how will we communicate?

If you're working with a general contractor you should have a project manager who will look after your specific project and will be your key point of contact throughout the whole process. It's important that you get along with this person and work well together, as well as understand how you'll be in contact and how often you'll be able to visit the site.

If you are buying a fairly standard new home, site visits will not be so essential, apart from the final walk-through. However, with a custom home, you may want regular updates and site visits to check on the building process, and to make any last-minute decisions.

7. Who is in your team and do you work with subcontractors?

Some general contractors will work with a lot of independent subcontractors while others will have their own team of dedicated professionals and laborers.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages but generally working with a company that directly employs most of the team needed to build your house, as Fortress Home does, will give you more control over the schedule and budget, and can help guarantee the quality of work.


8. How much will my house cost?

The cost of your new house is a very important point, and while it might take a little while to get a final price, especially with a complicated custom project, it's important to have a general idea of costs and to give the builder a clear idea of your budget. You should also check how they deal with cost overruns, especially due to delays.

You should also ask about payment plans and options as well as when payments are due. You need to have your financing in place as late payments can lead to construction delays.

9. How long will it take to build my house and how do you deal with delays?

Timelines and schedules for building a house can be quite complicated, especially when working with a custom home builder, but your general contractor should be able to give you some key dates early on in the process. It's also important to understand how they deal with setbacks and delays, due to things like weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

When building a house, delays and complications are almost inevitable, so it's good to understand how your builder will deal with them.

10. What is your quality assurance process?

Make sure your builder has a robust process in place to ensure the quality of the build of your dream home. At Fortress Home, there is a well-established internal and external quality audit process to ensure all our work, and that of our suppliers is completed to the highest possible standard.

11. What energy-efficient building techniques and materials do you use?

As green building and energy efficiency are becoming more important you want to make sure your house is built with the latest standards and energy-saving features. This will save you money in the long run, with reduced utility bills, and make your dream home more pleasant to live in.

12. Can I see testimonials from previous customers?

Testimonials from previous home buyers are a valuable tool in choosing your builder. They are even more robust if you can contact some of the previous clients to ask about their experience working with the builder in question.

Every construction company must obtain licenses, certificates and permits, required by the state.

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Questions to ask your custom home builder

When building a custom home it's a good idea to speak to several custom home builders to choose the right one for you and here are some questions to ask a home builder.

1. How much can I customize in my custom house and can I make any changes after construction has started?

Depending on the type of custom home builder you're working with will depend on exactly what you can customize.

Some semi-custom builders have set house styles with elements you can choose, while others will offer a 100% custom-built home.


You should also check what happens after construction begins if you want to make any changes or adjustments during the custom home building process.

2. Can you help me find a plot of land for my custom home?

If you don't already have a piece of land it can be tricky to find the best plot for your dream home. Some builders will help with this or may already have some plots of land that you can build on.

3. Have you built any houses similar to the one I want?

As well as asking how many homes have you built, it's also useful to know if a builder has experience with building homes similar to the one you want. You can find a really good builder but if they don't have specific expertise in the home style you're looking for you might want to look elsewhere.

4. How do I choose materials, fixtures, and fittings for my house?

If you are buying a semi-custom home your builder may have a showroom with all the upgrade options and finishes you can choose from, or they may have an interior designer you can work with to choose things like flooring, cabinet finishes, and color schemes. Alternatively, you may want to choose everything yourself and work with a designer of your own choosing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What questions should I ask a home builder?

As well as asking important questions around cost and timescales, it's also important to understand a builder's processes and expertise.

What questions should I ask a builder before hiring?

Reputation and customer testimonials are important things to consider before signing on the dotted line with a builder. You should also understand how they deal with delays and problems, as well as warranties and quality assurance processes.

What things to consider when building a house?

Before you build a custom home of your own you need to have a clear budget and brief, including an idea of your ideal floor plan and style of home, especially if you plan to work with a custom builder.

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