So, before you begin, know your credit. You can go online and get your free credit report from the THREE major credit bureaus. Obtaining these reports (print them off too) you will know just what has been put against you. I personally wouldn't worry about getting the points score; It costs money and it does nothing for you personally.
Here is the link to the Federal Trade Commissions Website. They will be a good source to get started with.
Once you know the "dings" in your credit report it is then time to start fixing those high balances. Do not take out new loans or new lines of credit unless necessary. New lines of credit will always set you back about 6 months until that credit has been able to season for a time. Creditors like to know what you do with the access that has been given to you. They like to make certain your not going to have all this new credit and then spend it all. Even purchasing a vehicle could cause some heartache when trying to get a loan on a home.
Once you have worked on decreasing your balances then would be the time to start working with a real estate agent and a lender. This is when you will be ready to make that move into a new home. It is common place for people to get a little ahead of this shift and then struggle for the next several years while they try to balance things out. HOWEVER, every situation is different. If you feel you are close to making your housing purchase then you should talk with a mortgage broker or financial institution to see what your options are.
If you do have an agent then I would recommend consulting with them on some options to finding a good mortgage broker. Often times they will be able to direct you to that professional that will have a program for your needs. They also have built some trust and know that there referred professionals will take care of their clients. An agent is a great resource to help educate you through the process.
I wish you Best Wishes in taking the next steps that will lead you to home ownership. I hope this information has been beneficial.
After you have a handle on where you are, and a plan for 6 months, 1 yr and so on, then you can approach a Realtor with a budget in mind.
I would really suggest meeting with a lender sometime soon to take a look at your credit and find out exactly what your goal should be to get to a place where you could afford the type of place that you want/need.
Everett and all of So Snohomish County is really some of the best areas to buy in right now. Many people can't afford to live too close to Seattle and Everett offers a lot more affordable options for people. I would say with the slowing market right now to try to purchase sometime between now and 6-12 months. This is a great time to be a buyer and Everett is a good area to not only make an investment but also settle down.
Once you talk to a lender and find out when and what you can afford...begin the search. It's never too early to "window shop" as you stated.
I hope that helps. Good luck on your house hunt...don't be afraid to ask myself or any other area realtors on Trulia other questions you may have!