Nearly 27 years ago when my wife finally talked me into looking at buying a house, we were like most young couples and started visiting every subdivision in the known free world.

After inspecting dozens of houses within several weeks, they all seemed to look alike and our heads were overburdened with bedrooms, living rooms, patios, carpeting, ceramic tile and broom closets.Finally, my sister suggested we talk to Henry Duehlmeier, who had built several subdivisions in what is now West Valley City. We liked what he had to offer, so we bought a home and still live in it.

Fortunately for us, Duehlmeier and his assistant, Dale Kehl, believed in quality. And the fact that we didn't give our builder the third degree didn't hurt us, but it could have. Looking back at our experience, I realize we were lucky to get the builder we had, and in general, it is wise to look at builders more closely.

Asking friends and relatives for recommendations on builders is just one of the suggestions made by the National Association of Home Builders in a brochure designed to help people select a competent builder.

Once you have thought about the type of house you want, the brochure suggests you look in the real estate section of your local newspaper to see which builders are active in your area and the prices you can expect to pay.

A local home builders association has a list of reputable builders, and members subscribe to a code of ethics. Local real estate agents also might be helpful in your search.

Once you have developed a list of builders, find out about their reputations and record the information for evaluation later. The brochure says the best way to learn about builders is to visit their homes and talk to the owners, something my wife and I didn't do 27 years ago.

Ask the owners if they are happy with their homes, if the builder did what he promised and did it in a timely manner. And ask if they would buy another house from the builder.

When examining a home, the brochure suggests, look at the quality of the construction features, including the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork and paint. If you feel uncomfortable about judging such things, take a knowledgeable person along.

"Always keep value in mind when shopping. Just because a home is less expensive than another does not mean it is a better value. Likewise, a more expensive home does not assure higher quality," the brochure said.

A home is primarily a place to live, but you also have to consider the investment factor. Consider the appreciation potential of any home. Plan for enough bedrooms and bathrooms for the size of family expected, and plan for enough space for hobbies, entertaining, etc.

Another important factor in buying a house is convenience to schools, shopping centers and transportation.

An important factor in selecting a builder is the warranty provided on the home. Ask to see a copy of the builder's warranty, and understand the protection it offers.

Most builders back their own warranties on workmanship and materials for one year and under that protection will return after about 30 days and in the 11th month to take care of some problems that might arise after the initial "shakedown" of living in the home.

Never hesitate to ask questions, the brochure said, even it they sound stupid. What sounds like a stupid question might yield an informative answer.