What can you do to protect yourself when purchasing a new home? Here are suggestions offered by buyers, builders, consumerists and industry officials.

1. If you are considering a development where several homes are already occupied, speak to present owners. What experiences have they had with the builder? If there are no residents yet, look at other projects by the builder and speak to the owners there.

2. Do sign any contract without first having it read by an attorney familiar with real estate. Also, be certain the contract gives you the specific right to choose the settlment attorney or title company.

3. Do not sign a contract with the intent of changing a design prior to settlement. This usually cannot be done because the building plans have already been submitted to local authorities or to FHA or VA inspectors.

4. Find out what type of warranty is being offered. If your builder does not offer a HOW plan or a warranty under a Registered Builders Program (RBP) how are disputes to be arbitrated short of a court suit?

5. What are the standard used in the builder's warranty program? Different standards when not covered by HOW or Registered Builders program.

6. Communicate with your builder. Most problems are resolved on a reasonable basis when both builder and buyer talk to each other.

7. Consider the weather. Certain construction work simply cannot be done when it is cold or wet.

8. Find out what obligations a builder has to complete work listed on the pre-inspection (punch) list. If you are concerned about incomplete work establish an escrow (trust) account at settlement. The money in this account will be released to the builder when the required work is complete.

9. At the pre-inspection, write down everything of concern on your punch list. Do not be embarassed to not e small or seemingly unimportant items. Test all appliances through a full cycle of operation.

10. Read everything you receive from the builder. Many questions - and problems - can be resolved with the information already in hand.