The first thing I did was to just check out as many of the builders as I could and their display homes to get a sense of the kind of homes they can put together. Keep in mind though that with any of the display homes will be filled to the brim with all of the top level inclusions so you have to lower expectations ever so slightly. - maknilsin
I started by looking at display homes to see which builders had the designs that appealed to me most. From there I short-listed my favourite designs and tried to have about 4-5 builder options. I then researched through friends, family, colleagues, forums, and awards to gauge their credibility, quality and competence.
Make sure they know who's running the show. Don't get caught up in the value of their inclusions and all that marketing spin because that's all it really is. Keep on top of them and hold them to deadlines, promises, etc. Let them know you know what your options are in the market and you're happy to go elsewhere if you don't get the experience you're expecting.
Find out early how they deal with and charge for alterations to plans. You'll find some builders are flexible and cheap while others are either flexible or not but certainly really expensive. Look for a builder that's been in the business longer than the warranties they offer and that their warranties aren't significantly more than other builders.
Pay for a building inspector. Let your builder know you'll be doing so, it keeps them on their toes. - ProjectPete
I would ask your network for recommendations if possible as a starting point. Once you have a few recommendations, I would ensure that you meet with them to get a sense of whether they are the right fit for you, your budget and the type of house you are looking to build. Personality fit is also really important! Some builders are collaborators, others like things to be "their way or the highway".
I would also inspect some of their previous work and get references from previous clients. We had to fire our builder recently and it has delayed us greatly – not to mention caused a huge amount of stress! - KingStreetReno
We haven't built new before but have done a couple of major reno projects. The relationship with the first builder didn't end well, but the second was a dream. I think the big difference was communication and flexibility.
There are undoubtedly things in the project that will go wrong or that you aren't happy with. Or you might just change your mind about something. If you have a great builder that is flexible, accommodating, understanding, easy to talk to and committed to delivering the best possible outcome for you the client, you will be fine. So try to find a builder that has been recommended by others for these qualities.
Whoever does your plans and documentation probably doesn't matter as much as ensuring that it is extremely comprehensive. You don't want surprises down the track and you want to ensure everyone is on the same page. - Kermit
We have been into many display homes so far, looking at hundreds of home designs. A few have been extremely accommodating, whereas others have taken quite a long time to respond or have not responded to our enquiries at all (even after following up).
We made a rookie mistake, paying a deposit to a builder and being very specific on when we were looking to build and other various specifics, only to have said builder contact and harass us when we did not start within a certain time frame. Needless to say we won't be building with them as there was a lot of confusion, miscommunication and disappointment before we had even started!
One of the biggest things that we have made the mistake in doing is not confirming a few minor things in writing - this is something I can't stress enough. - TheFoxSays