Having an idea of your project scope, available budget, and desired time frame is the best place to start. Knowing that all of this must be flexible due to the nature of this type of project. Any design-build project has a lot of moving parts and relies on all those parts to fall in place perfectly... so be open to flexibility!
Here are some questions to ask yourself at the beginning of a project. You should have some answer to these before doing anything.
1. Is my project a new build, tear down or remodel? Am I open to alternate options?
2. What are my must haves for this project?
3. When do I hope to have this project done? When am I open to having this project done if that time frame is not an option?
4. What is my available budget? What is my desired budget?
5. Do I want to be in charge of each individual sub-contractor on my project or do I want someone to do it for me?
First you must do your research. You want to figure out how you want your design-build process to go. This type of project is very complex and it takes a village to make it happen. If you have a very small remodeling project, maybe a design-build firm would be the best fit or even managing it yourself. If you have a larger remodel with an addition, changes to the exterior, or a new build--you may be better off going with an architecture firm who will work with a separate builder that can handle that level of complexity and attention to detail.
Once you know what type of process you would like to proceed with, begin searching! You can use online resources like Houzz, google searches in your area and word of mouth! Listening to experiences people have had with an architect or builder you are interested in working with is invaluable. As long as you take the advice along with your own impression during the interviewing process, you can make a very educated decision.
When thinking about who to interview, you'll want to think about the following factors:
1. Location. You'll want to find a partner that is somewhat near you so that weekly meetings will work out in everyone's schedule unless you find someone who can set up online conference meetings easily with visuals. Some companies, like JMAD, are very familiar with this and can make this part of the process work well that way.
2. Familiarity with desired style. You'll want to find someone that is familiar with the style home you are looking to do or has done that type of style in the past, that will make the process a lot smoother and happier for all parties!
3. Reviews/Testimonials. Take a look at the reviews and testimonials from people who have worked with your potential partner. If you identify with things they have said or there are a lot of people advocating for this company, then it is probably worth checking them out!
The Interview. Focus on the feeling you get from that architect or builder. Do they fit with your personality, your excitement level, are they on the same page as you? Getting along well with this person will be crucial to your decision so pay attention to your instincts.
Here are some questions you may want to ask in your interview as they are good things to consider up front: