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First Steps to Building a House — 6 Steps to Get Started

So you're wondering about the requirements for building a house. Assuming you're not an experienced contractor or builder you'll probably be handing the site management and labor over to a trusted general contractor, but before the home construction process begins in earnest you should consider things like the requirements of your entire house, your finances, and budget, as well as who you want to work with on this all-important project. If you're in Chicago choosing a well-established and respected custom homes general contractor like Fortress Home will help make the process as pleasant as possible.

Taking the first steps to building a house

Building a new home requires lots of work and planning, both financially and practically. You will spend a lot of time making lists which might include:

  • priorities and requirements for the house
  • budgets and financing
  • recommended contractors and builders
  • architects or possible house designs
  • plots of land

All your planning will be worth it in the long run when your custom home becomes a reality.

Review, refine, revise

Remember that many of the steps below are iterative and you will update them as the process progresses. For example, your initial budget will probably change several times as you speak to your builder and architect about the construction costs.

Items may move off your 'essentials' list based on practicality and cost. And hopefully, other items will be realistic and doable and make their way onto the floor plans.

Maybe you'll find your dream plot of land before you find an architect or builder, and that's ok. The order of these steps is not set in stone but you should complete all of them during the building process.

Plan your dream home

When planning a custom home the sky's the limit, so it's vital to prioritize the most important features. Make a list of everything you've ever imagined for your ideal house and group it into 'essential' and 'nice to have'. Going around your existing house is a great way to figure out what works for you and what could be improved upon.

Some things, like the exact layout and design, will probably not be decided on until you have a lot to build on, but having clear ideas of what you want from the start is very helpful.


It's important to remain flexible on certain elements though, to allow for budget management. When you speak to your architect or builder, that wrap-around balcony might add too much to the budget and require additional supporting elements, so being open to change is important.

You can also look for inspiration and ideas for interior design online and research the latest sustainable home features to decide if they're worth the cost. With advances in technology, it's worth considering if you want a smart home with all the additional wiring that entails. When looking at long-term costs and sustainability you might want to consider using renewable materials or adding solar panels to your plans.

Create thorough budget

You will revisit and revise your budget often throughout the process of building a house but creating a rough outline budget should be one of the first things you do, as it will help you understand what's realistic when planning your house. Read some articles on the approximate costs of building a new house, including the likely cost per square foot in your city or state. Work out how much you have to spend and how much you're going to be able to borrow.

Don't forget!

Always remember to add a contingency fund to any budget - there will always be a few surprises in the home construction process.

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Check your financing options

It's likely that you will need both a mortgage and a construction loan, but luckily banks will pre qualify you for both of these based on your income, so you'll have a clear idea of how much you can borrow early on in the process. Standard mortgages alone are not usually possible in custom home construction, so unless you can afford to pay for the project in cash you will need to apply for a construction loan. Before you can apply for the actual loan you will need a full budget, floor plans, schedule, and timeframes. You will also have to give details of your general contractors so it's unlikely you'll be able to get the loan fully approved until further on along the process.

Things to be aware of!

You will find that the process of applying for a construction loan is more complex and difficult than applying for a traditional home loan because you are borrowing money to pay for an idea rather than an actual house.

Research and hire your dream team

The most important member of your new home construction team is your general contractor or custom builder. They will supervise the construction of your home from start to finish. If you choose a general contractor that offers a full range of services, like Fortress Home in Chicago, they can help with everything including:

  • drawing up the initial plans or assisting with it
  • getting your building permit
  • finding experienced subcontractors
  • choosing and purchasing building materials
  • managing everything on site
  • keeping everything to budget
  • managing schedules and deadlines
  • communicating with you every step of the way
  • making sure your house passes its final inspection
  • ensuring that your house is move-in-ready

How to find a great contractor

One of the key first steps to building a house is to choose the general contractor who will manage the entire project for you. You might want to do this even earlier on in the process as a knowledgeable contractor can offer you advice from the start. In order to find your dream general contractor we recommend:

  • Speaking to people in your neighborhood who built their own home
  • talk to local real estate agents and ask for recommendations
  • look in the local property pages for new house developers as they may also build custom homes
  • check with homeowners associations for recommendations

We suggest you interview 3-5 general contractors, asking for references or testimonials, and, if possible, look at examples of their work.

Start creating your own house plans

While there are many ready-to-build single-family home plans available online, if you are looking for a truly custom home, designed to your exact requirements it's essential that you hire a great architect.

Ideally, you can find a local architect who understands local building codes and can ensure any plans they draw up will be approved without issue.


To find a good architect you can ask friends or neighbors who live in homes similar to the one you want to build. You can check with local realtors, or if you already have a general contractor in mind they can help you find a suitable architect.

When the house and floor plans are being drawn up your previous planning will come in handy as you can clearly brief your architect on the ideal size, layout, and design of your house.

Things to consider!

If you're not planning on staying at that home forever, think carefully about how design decisions and layout might affect the future resale value. You might want to speak to a local realtor about the price per square foot of homes similar to yours as well as what features are most desirable in that neighborhood.

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Find the right lot

If you're lucky enough to already have your own land then you can skip this step but for most people, you will have to look around to find the best piece of land for your new construction. Check with a local real estate agent who specializes in land and see what's available.

Don't forget to check your architect and contractor during this stage, to make sure the lot you choose meets the requirements of your home layout. They can also advise on any restrictive zoning laws in that area that might hinder construction. They will also be able to advise on more practical issues, for example, if you want to build on a slope that might require additional engineering work. Or if the piece of land you are looking at is quite remote you might need to install a septic tank to manage your waste, as well as build your own access road.

Hand over to your general contractor

Once you have your plans, financing, and plot of land you can hand over to your house building team who will begin the main procedure to build a house, including all the hard work of obtaining building permits, clearing the land, purchasing construction materials, assembling a team, and ultimately building a house for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first step when building a house?

The first steps to building a house are to decide what sort of house you want and what's most important to you. You should put together lists of essentials and things that are nice to have. These can include:

  • Number of rooms
  • Approximate square footage
  • Architectural style
  • Outdoor space
  • Rough layout and room plan
  • Storage
  • Lighting and natural light
 

Once you have your lists put together you should work out a budget, to encompass what you can afford and what the house is roughly going to cost.

What are the first 5 steps to building a house?

Before you even break ground on your building site you need to think about how to plan to build a house and there are a few important steps to follow:

  1. Planning — Make a comprehensive list of everything that is essential for your new home and what would be nice to have.
  2. Budgeting — Work out how much you can afford to spend and how much you can afford to borrow in order to pay for your dream home. You will need to update your budget when you have spoken to an architect and builder.
  3. Find a builder — Finding the right general contractor is vital when planning to build a house. If you find a reliable and experienced builder your project will run much more smoothly. In fact, a really good one can help you with the next two steps.
  4. Find land — You'll need to find the right plot of land in the right location in order to start the home building process.
  5. House design — Working with an architect you can draw up the plans for your custom home.
 

Now you've completed the five preparatory steps you can hand your plans over to your builder and they will begin the new construction of your dream home.


What should you not miss when building a house?

If you're planning to build your own home there is a lot of preparation that goes into it before the construction process can begin. Planning in detail is the most important thing. If you're upgrading your existing home for a dream house you want to ensure everything is perfect.

So the planning stage needs to be meticulous as you consider all the details, large and small. You should consider:

  • how you will live in the space
  • what rooms you will need
  • the flow of the house
  • how the house will be oriented regarding roads, natural features, and natural light
  • what you might need in the future
 

So you want to build a house — talk to Fortress Home today

If you're looking for the best custom house builders in Chicago speak to Fortress Home today at [email protected] or +773-770-8607.

With an amazing team, 20+ years of experience, and the highest-quality construction work they really understand what goes into building a house.

 
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