It is admirable that you are taking the initiative to plan for your future....so many people don't and suffer for it in the long run.
You probably are a ways away from visiting homes with a realtor but there is nothing wrong with working through agents to have your questions answered and to have them provide sample properties for you to preview.
While making these contacts, always be up front letting the agent(s) know what your future plans are. We have customers that we have been working with for 3 years and have a wonderful working relationship that has expanded into a friendship with the common bond being real estate.
The knowledge you gain along the way will make you better equipped to make the right decision quickly when the right time comes.
Keep planning........we offer our best wishes.
The "Eckler Team"
Michael Saunders & Company
You should get in contact with an agent now. This will give you enough time to see what properties are selling for in the area. It will also give you enough time to determine whether your agent is qualified for the job.
This site is a good place for finding agents.