1. Hire qualified contractors. This is the single most important thing you can do to eliminate potential problems during the construction process. You need to be able to trust who is working for you to show up on time, do quality work while they are there, and to be honest and up front with you regarding what was included in their original bid and what was not. It's also important to keep in mind that it's not always best to select the cheapest contractor. Your mother was right when she said, "You get what you pay for." If someone is significantly less than the other bids you've received, it can be a sign. Review the bids closer - see if what they've bid is apples to apples. If you're still not sure, ask for job references. You need to be comfortable that they are a quality, reputable contractor.
2. Do your homework - plan ahead. The building process isn't something that you want to rush into. Before you even begin the process you should have a very good idea about what you want in the home. Decide on what your must-haves are and then what you may be willing to settle for. Unless you are lucky enough to have an unlimited budget, at some point throughout the process the budget will prevail and you will need to make decisions about what you can cut out.
3. Be specific when getting bids. Directly related to the previous recommendation of planning ahead, it is so important to be specific about what you want when you are getting bids from contractors. If you know that you absolutely want to have oil rubbed bronze plumbing fixtures in your home, you should make sure your plumber is bidding your home including those fixtures. If nothing is specified, a chrome finish is typically bid - which is the lowest price option - but if a different finish is desired it can add a significant amount onto your fixture cost. Decide what you want early on in the process and let your contractors know. If you can have the exact product and features that you want bid you leave less room for potential budget shift later on.
4. Leave room to grow. As we've said earlier, unless you have an unlimited budget, you will most likely have to make some compromises. Make sure those compromises make sense. This is where having quality contractors makes a difference because they will be able to give you honest advice. If you need to leave the basement unfinished in order to save money, make sure you discuss having future plumbing stubbed up for a future bathroom. By trying to "save" this part in the short-run you could potentially spend thousands extra having to go back and jack hammer a floor later. Discuss these things with your plumbing contractor, electrical contractor, HVAC contractor and your builder. If you need to save overall, it might make sense to design an area on your home that is easy to add-on to in the future. Perhaps you do vinyl siding and later-on add stone. The options are endless and that's where some good advance planning, and honesty with your budget can make a big difference.
5. Enjoy this time. How incredibly exciting is it to be building a new home, that is all yours, and exactly how you want it?! This is the place where you'll be building memories with your family. You might be bringing your first child home to this place. Or this might be the place that your children have their first birthday sleep-over at. Either way, this is the place that you will call home. It will be your safe haven from the world. Enjoy this time putting your dreams into reality.
Good luck with your project and remember our tips. They can make a big difference between a great experience and a not-so-great experience.