I'm a girlie girl, so I don't really know these construction thingies. That's why God blessed me with a husband who's not only into construction, but is quite serious about it, to the point of obession :) All I wanted was a house, with walk in closet and a bath tub :) Somehow, we balanced each other out.
First thing to do: Decide how you will build your house.
We were able to buy our lot late 2006. So we've had it for 3 years now. Even before we got it, hubs and I decided that we're gonna build our house, meaning we're going to manage and finance the construction. That way it'll be done according to what we wanted in terms of layout and materials used, and also because an Uncle (who was a contractor) advised that it would be so much cheaper to do so.
The other option of course is to have the developer build the house. This was good if you're in a hurry to move in - that was RFO (ready for occupancy) scheme. It was of course not cheap to get an RFO and you're not sure of the quality of materials used.
And then you can also hire a contractor to build it for you. As owner, you don't do anything except approve the design, and then pay for the construction. I think this is cheaper than RFO, but then again before the construction starts, you have to make sure that the list of materials is of good quality and something you like. So you have to check every material listed, go to construction supply shops and depots to check on the quality and the price. This you have to do because if you don't and they start doing your house and you don't like the material, say, of the tiles and you'd like to change it, the cost of the change will be added on top of the original construction cost.
Second thing to do: Design the house or find someone who can.
We knew what we wanted our house to be. We've been to dozens and dozens of look-see of model houses of other developers to know which ones we like and we ones to say no to. We've also looked at magazines and websites. All we had to do is find someone to design our house.
We looked at several options. One was a referral of the hub's officemate. The other was a brother of an officemate. We also saw a few architects on the web. We all tried to meet with them and told them of what we wanted and they gave us plans and schemes and we met again to talk about changes if there were any. This took awhile, to be honest. None negotiables for me were the walk in closet and the bath tub. But I had to choose one, since our space was limited. It was heart wrenching - I honestly couldn't choose. After about a month of debating, I let go of the bath tub but made the hubs promise that we're going to have one in our retirement home :)
Finally, we narrowed it down to the design, the person we're most comfortable with, and of course the price. For me, what's important is the rapport we have with the architect. There were a few we met who really had good designs, but I found them not trustworthy. I went with someone sincere. The hubs went with someone who we can afford hehe So we had a winner design, winner architect and winner price! :)
We still have a long way to go. I'll try to update as we progress in this project.