Buying a newly built home in Texas? Here are some tips to protect your investment.

North Texas is still in the midst of a job and population boom, and contractors are scrambling to build houses quick enough to keep up with the demand.

It’s more important than ever for home buyers to make sure their builder does good work, and will quickly fix any construction defects that inevitably come up in the first couple of years of home ownership.

Prospective owners of newly-built homes often spend hours debating what fixtures, floors, counter tops and other features to include in the original construction. While those decisions are important, experts say it’s even more crucial that customers spend at least the same number of hours researching the builder’s reputation and speaking with references before signing a contract.

“Everyone understands it’s a new plat of land. We have clay soil, and the builder may face challenges,” said Sriram Villupuram, a finance and real estate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “The question is, after they build your home, do they stand by their service and fix the issues?”

Experts say it’s important to be willing to walk away from a purchase if the builder won’t offer basic assurances about the quality of work.

Here are some tips from Custom Home Resource, the Professional Home Warranty Corporation and other sources:

Hire an attorney to read your contract with the builder before signing it. This will cost you a few hundred dollars, but could save tens of thousands of dollars in the first couple of years you live in the house. Even if your contract includes language that favors the builder — requiring you to use arbitration to settle disputes, for example — at least you will know what you are signing.

Hire your own inspector before closing on the home or moving in. Directories of residential inspectors can be found at the American Society of Home Inspectors and the North American Association of Home Inspectors. The latter doesn’t allow its members to pay Realtors fees in exchange for recommendations to customers, or hide any other potential conflicts of interest.

Focus on quality: Ask the builder for a tour of previously built homes. Ask for at least three references of former customers and interview them about their entire experience with the builder.

Do the research: Take your time narrowing your search to the neighborhood you like, and ask residents there about their experiences. Don’t let your desire to move into a home cause you to rush past the details.

Communicate: Make sure you’re satisfied that your communication style fits with the builder. Make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of time it takes for your calls and texts to be returned.

Call a few real estate agents and ask for their input about which builders are best in your area.

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Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.