Let's work backwards. Your lease is up February 29. That means you'd want to move into your home by February 29. Most closings take 45-60 days. Let's say 60 days, then build in 30 days as a cushion. (Things can go wrong.) That means you should have a ratified contract in hand November 29. (Recognize, too, that you're going to be running into Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Martin Luther King's birthday--all holidays that are going to slow the process down.
So we're back to November 29. Allow at least 30 days to look at homes, make offers, and go through the negotiation process. (That may seem like a lot, but that's only 4 weekends.) Now we're back to October 29.
You'll need to get preapproved. That shouldn't take long so if your credit is OK. Let's say October 15.
Now let's consider your finances. Your credit may be fine. It may not be. You need to allow enough time to fix any (minor) problems on your credit. Big problems could take years. But let's say it's just a few items of inaccurate information. And maybe you've got high balances on a credit card or two that you should pay off. Allow 90 days or more to find out the problems, make the fixes, and allow time for those fixes to ripple through to the various credit bureaus. To allow those 90 days, we're back to July 15.
Looks like you really ought to begin this week.
Hope that helps.
Are you still in the market to buy a home? If so, I would love to see if we can help you out. We work with 1st time home buyers all the time. Do you have a realtor yet? If not we have preferred ones we can get you in contact with. I would like to see if I can help you out with a home mortgage. I will try and make this a very easy process. Please let me know how to help out.
MN District Branch Manager
NMLS # 387408
Gold Star Financial Group
I encourage you to at least keep your eye on the market. Setting up a search for short sale properties for this early in the game isn't a bad idea. You'll also probably want to at least get a loan pre-approval done, so that if you find one you can't pass up, you're ready to make an offer and be taken seriously.
Start by checking out the neighborhoods and interviewing agents. And start right now. There are quite a few options in the Crystal, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley area, but there can be BIG differences between neighborhoods.
You might want to start by checking out this handy lifestyle search tool: http://www.exitrealty.com/lifestyle_search.aspx
And it would be a good idea to review the Minnesota Attorney General's Home Buyer Handbook
Good luck and Happy House Hunting.
There is a great flowchart on the broker website below, if you want t graphical representation of the process.
Afterwards, if you aren't going to be buying the home outright with cash, you'll want to look into getting pre approved for a mortgage. This doesn't mean you have to buy right away, you can always extend the pre-approval.
Link to homebuyer education courses: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm?webListAction
Link to the pre-approval process: http://www.trulia.com/blog/shanethemortgageman/2011/05/the_m
I agree with both answers below. It is never too early to start looking for a house nor is it ever too early to start educating yourself so that you can make the best decisions when the time comes. I encourage you to start talking to real estate agents and lenders to find ones you are comfortable with. In fact I recently wrote a blog post about exactly this subject. The link is below.