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What it takes to be great American home builders

At Fortress Homes we've been building homes and dreams in Chicago for over 20 years and we think we know what it takes to be Americas best home builders. So when you want to find the best builders in your area here are some things you should look for.

Whether you're looking for a remodel, a home addition, to buy a new home, or to build a custom house or commercial building, rather than looking for the largest national home builders or the best home builders in USA you should think about who you really want to work with. Local knowledge is key, as is real human interaction with the people you're working with.

What are your options?

The first thing you should do when looking for the right builders for you is to draw up a shortlist of companies you're interested in. You can do this by speaking to neighbours or local homeowners associations and looking in the real estate section of your local paper. Ask for recommendations of American house builders people have previously worked with. Ideally you want to consider a few options to get a clear idea of the local market. Make sure you list house builders who have experience with the type of property you're looking for and who are in your general price range.

Who are you working with?

While it may seem a cliché, would you rather work with the largest home builders, who are probably a large faceless corporation, or a family business where everyone knows you by name? You will get a house built either way but working with a small or medium sized family business there is a level of trust and investment in the local community that money can't buy.

Also, if you're working with the largest US home builders it's very unlikely that you'll ever meet the people in charge, but if you work with regional or local major home builders, like Fortress Home, you'll be working directly with the company owners, ensuring you receive the best service and most tailored experience.


The best way to decide if you want to work with a particular builder is to interview them to understand if they are the right company for your project.

Questions to ask a builder

  1. Check how they manage budgets and get an estimate for your project.
  2. What are the likely timescales for your build? How long will it take?
  3. Can you get references from their existing customers?
  4. Do they offer custom design and construction services? Or are you obligated to take their standard builders house plans and prices?
  5. Do they offer set packages for appliances and fittings or are custom options available?
  6. Do they give you a warranty? For how long and what does it cover?
  7. Do they include landscaping in the price? What else is included?
  8. Can they estimate the taxes for the property?
  9. Are there any restrictive covenants in place?

When comparing builders and their quotes, remember cheaper is usually not better. When building a house you don't want to be cutting corners. If you speak to several different contractors their estimates should be fairly close, and if one quote is substantially cheaper, ask yourself why.

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How much local experience do they have?

If you are looking for a custom house build, working with the biggest home builders in USA may seem appealing but are they really going to have the local knowledge that you need to ensure your plans get approved and your permits get issued on time? Working with a local firm brings with it a huge network of dedicated craftspeople and experts, as well as those hard-won relationships with local government offices, that may just help smooth over any delays in permits being issued.

What services should top US home builders really offer?

While the largest home builders in America might be experts at producing huge numbers of identical homes at low prices, will they have the flexibility and imagination to give you the house, addition, or remodel of your dreams. Working with a full service general contractor, like Fortress Home, you'll find someone who can help you realize all your dreams, not just deliver standard home builders floor plans and cookie cutter homes.

Fortress Home are experienced American custom home builders who will plan and construct your home based on your specific needs and lifestyle. Quality is key in the process as you want to be sure you're getting a home that will last for as long as you need it, and beyond.


Top house builders should not only build your home, they can help with planning, budgeting, getting permits, sourcing the best materials, hiring the most qualified laborers and craftspeople, while ensuring everything is managed on time and to budget.

Do the top 10 home builders all have the same quality process?

When working with the largest house builders you need to check what their quality and audit processes are. Do they stick to the level of local building codes or exceed them? Have they got both an internal and external audit process when looking at quality? How transparent are they in their quality management systems?

When talking to local or big house builders, don't forget to ask for full details of their quality management system to ensure you're getting the best work possible.

What are their credentials and certifications?

Choosing a contractor is about more than just home builders rankings. Ensure they are fully licenced and bonded in your local area. Are they fully insured so that you're covered in case of an accident or unforeseen occurrence or if there are problems with the property further down the line? In Chicago you can check with the Department of Buildings to ensure your contractors are fully registered and licensed.

You can also check how long their business has been operating. A well established business that has been around for at least 5-10 years offers less risk, especially when it comes to servicing a warranty in years to come.

We also recommend checking with your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed.

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What do their customers say?

One of the most important things to do is get references from a contractors' existing customers, and if at all possible, talk to them face to face. This will give you the most honest and thorough experience of working with a contractor, as well as a clear picture of their standard of work, quality process, budget adherence and how well they stick to schedule.

Checklist when talking to existing customers

Here are some things you should ask existing customers about:

  • Are you happy with your new home?
  • Did you have any problems with your new home?
  • If you had any problems, how were they fixed? Were they fixed quickly?
  • Would you recommend someone else buy from this builder?
  • If it was a custom build, were there any delays? How were they dealt with?
  • For custom builds, did they stick to the budget?
  • Did you enjoy working with them?
  • Were they easy to communicate with?

What else have they built?

When looking for American home place builders it's always a good idea to draw up a shortlist of possible companies and go and visit some of their previous projects. You might also be able to remove some candidates from your short-list at this stage, if they don’t have any projects similar to your dream build.

If they make commercial as well as residential properties you may even be able to go inside and check out the finish and workmanship in person. While looking at local builders house plans can be useful, it's better if you can see the completed buildings in the flesh. Maybe you can even talk to some of the people who work or live there about their experiences with the building.

When you're interviewing potential builders you can always ask if they have any model homes, show homes or almost completed projects that you can visit. This will give you a great idea of their work both finished and unfinished.


When looking at an example of a builder's work there are a variety of things you should check:

  • How is the quality of the construction both inside and out?
  • How is the quality of any cabinetry and trimming?
  • How well are the carpets fitted and is the paintwork done to a high standard?

Don't be afraid to ask questions and look inside fitted units, in the basement or the roof space (if accessible). Information is your best ally at this point and more you have, the better informed choice you'll be able to make.

Working with Fortress Home

At Fortress Home we are one of the top residential construction companies in Chicago with over 20 years of experience. We can help you every step of the way, from choosing the right design for your new build, to ensuring all the plans and permits are in place. We'll ensure you have a detailed budget that includes information like the price per square foot so you really understand the true cost of building a home.


We like to think of ourselves as some of the best of Americas home builders. As a family owned business we take real pride in our work and our relationships with our customers. We are part of the local community in Chicago and want to ensure a tradition of high quality construction in the city that we love.

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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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