When you think about it, if you’re having a new home built, it could be the biggest financial investment you’ll ever make. That fact alone should send out messages loud and clear to get it right, to do your homework and to hasten slowly.

Everyone should plan well but especially so if you are a novice when it comes to building a house. You have the greatest reason to plan well. Remember if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail. So here are some practical steps even a newbie would-be home owner can take to ensure they get what they pay for, on time and to a really high standard. These steps don’t guarantee perfection but they do lower the risk of problems.

Millions of homeowners have had a great working relationship with their builder and been very satisfied with their new home. Sadly some have fallen out big time with their builder and their tales of woe make for heart-rending reading. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Choose experience. Every builder has to start somewhere but selecting a builder who has been in business for years and has a wealth of clients who are happy to recommend the builder will increase your chances of success and help you sleep well once that contract is signed. Testimonials from a builder are fine but going to see the builder’s handiwork can be illuminating. Even a walk past some of the builder’s latest houses can be helpful. Chatting to the owners may not be practical but the best advice often comes from fellow investors like you.

2. What do I get? The fine print can be a good or a bad thing. Before you sign any contract, draw up a list of questions. Nothing is silly or unimportant. You need to be sure of things before you sign. One of the most obvious questions concerns what you get for your money. There will be plans and illustrations and the contract will be specific but ask to be sure. What about landscaping, plants, driveways and paths? Are they all part of the build? Your beautiful new home may be great but having it sitting in a pile of mud means someone has a lot more work to do.

3. Quality counts. Find out about two aspects of quality, namely the quality of fittings and the quality of construction. A bath is a bath is a bath is not necessarily so. Get a clear and precise description of the fixtures and fittings to be installed. Then we come to the quality of the construction. You don’t want your house built, you want it well built. What guarantees can the builder offer on this subject? How can the work be monitored during construction? Should you hire an independent project manager to act on your behalf? Check on quality.

4. When will it be finished? This is an essential question. Of course there can be unforeseen situations such as severe weather but an experienced builder will be able to give you a definite date of completion. If you are asking builders for quotes and one or more give you a much shorter build time than the others, query this. It might be an unrealistic time and given so as to win the contract.

Talking to an independent expert may be helpful and save you money. Doing as much research as possible could prove a big help. Knowledge is power and you can pick up the basics thus enabling you to ask the relevant questions.