Pre Housepainting Tips and Recommendations

I'm going to have my house painted (exterior) here in SoCal in a month or so and planning to get two or three estimates. There is one fellow who I've had indirect dealings with and he is the likely choice, but I want to get a second opinion or two.
This is a stucco house about 25 years old that hasn't been painted since it was new. There is some wood siding, but not much. Despite the lack of care, all the wood (eaves, etc.) seems to be in good shape. There is only minimal surface cracking in the stucco, and a few minor wood and trim repairs needed here and there.
I plan to have a solid job done using high quality paint. Not extreme dollar, but certainly not on the cheap, either (about a 7 or 8 on a scale from 1 to 10). I recognize that, as with so many projects of this sort, prep is often the most important part, so I won't be skimping on that either.
Finally, a question:
Based on experiences, what major things do I need be sure I take into consideration during the estimates and then during the actual painting? I also know there are commercial websites that cover some of this, but I don't trust them to give a completely unbiased set of recommendations. Feel free to point me to any web sources that are reliable. Any advice would be much appreciated.
- Magnusfarce
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We have a stucco house and painted it ourselves. The pros might have some trick I don't know about but our house sucked the paint up like you wouldn't believe. It took a lot more to cover it than I had planned on when I bought paint.
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