My husband and I are surprised about how much time it has taken for us to get to the point where we are now - 1-2 months from breaking ground. As with many things, this takes longer than anyone would expect, but it's well worth taking the time to put the time in before the project because you may be able to avoid some delays during the project. Not all delays of course!
Although this has been a busy year for both Jim and I work-wise, we have made a special effort to push through certain phases of the project, but at other times we have not pushed as hard as we could have. We were focused the entire time on the January/February start date so it was not important to move very quickly. Unless you have already chosen your architect, I would estimate a minimum of four-six months from architect interviews until ready to break ground.
Here is the timeline that we have worked on to give you an idea. We slowed down considerably in the summer until mid-August when we started interviewing contractors.
January-February: Choosing and interviewing prospective architects
March: Initial meetings with our architect
April - July: Weekly or biweekly design meetings with the architect
Late August: Meeting with prospective general contractors
Early September: Finalize bid set of plans
Mid-September: Putting the plans out for bid with contractors
Early November: Meetings with two finalist contractors and our architect
Mid-November: Select general contractor; talk to lenders re: financing
December: Finalize plans for permit; secure financing for project
This is just a brief picture of our timeline. The process was never overwhelming for us because we were not under tremendous time pressure. As a result, we did not feel rushed into any decisions and continued to feel like we had time to rethink design decisions that were already made.