The search for house plans and builders can be combined. ... we contacted a builder we had read about in the real estate section of the local paper. His company constructed new houses and restored old ones. He sounded like our kind of builder.
It was a family business with a good track record and reputation. (We'd heard the horror stories about unfinished homes, uncorrected problems, undelivered toilets--you paid the contractor, but he didn't pay the supplier--and materials, and contractors absconding with the cash--one of the reasons we were reluctant to build.) We worked with an architect through our builder because we had a definite idea of what we wanted, and though we accumulated a variety of house plans, not one was just right.
It is never too early to think about choosing a builder and house plans. To save money and time, you can buy stock plans. They come in a wonderful variety of styles and sizes. Book stores have a big selection of house plan books; and you can find them online. And, of course, developers have a selection of plans. You can even walk through them. Don't overlook modular homes; they can be built much quicker. ...
Many people pick a house plan and then change it. Once you decide on your plan, you can work with your builder to make the changes you want, which is what a neighbor did. She enlarged the house; which meant she had to have boards custom cut for the back porch. A friend took her stock plan to a draftsman and then to the builder. Another friend had the help of the builder, an architect, and her husband to change their stock plan.
From Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook (now #5 on this Barnes &Noble list: Barnes & Noble.com: Books / Home & Garden / House & Home / Home - Do-It-Yourself / Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals )