I'm looking at building whole houses and detached garages. Where would I begin my search for contractors that I would want to continue to use project after project?
I'm a general contractor in Connecticut. We often do projects of those size. Here would be my recommendations for finding a general contractor or builder in your area:
1) Local town Facebook groups. We have a "Newtown Neighbors" here and a "Wilton 411." It is probably the leading source for local contractor recommendations. Ask specifically what you are looking for and look for consistent recommendations from people who are not the contractor themselves!
2) Local lumber yard. Not Home Depot. Not Lowe's. Go to a local building supply that sells lumber and ask the sales rep behind the counter who they would recommend. They'll give you an honest opinion of the guy who treats them right, pays his bills on time, and has a good reputation. You may find that a solo carpenter or a small firm is better than a larger crew of contractors.
3) BiggerPockets! It is a great place to start off looking for someone local who can help you out.
4) HomeAdvisor/Angie's List/Houzz. They cost money for the contractors to advertise there, but the reviews from clients allow for reputable contractors to rise to the top. Many of the subcontractors I use don't advertise on these sites and primarily work for General Contractors or have been in the business long enough to not need these sites.
Good luck with the search! Building new is always a fun undertaking.
@Jon Christian David Greene's book on "Long Distance Real Estate Investing" has a great piece about locating and then vetting contractors. Since you probably build locally, you might overlook this book but I highly recommend it for locals as well.
@Jon Christian , local lumber yards is a great place. I have also had some luck talking to guys at construction sites. Many are subs, and not specifically loyal to that builder, or even if they are, they still take on other jobs.
My roofer friend finds his contractors through Facebook marketplace too, but he is dealing directly with laborers full time, and that can impose its own risks, versus through a more reputable company that deals with laborers and takes on that risk. When my roofer needs a drywaller, he asks team, and they likely have a friend that hangs and finishes drywall.