Before you start looking at homes for sale, be sure you do some "homework." Here are some of the questions for which you'll need answers:
Check out interest rates - What are current local mortgage interest rates for 15-year and 30-year fixed rate mortgages, and for 1-, 3- and 5-year adjustable rate mortgages?
Shop for the best loan - Which type of loan is best for you? Will you be in the house several years and benefit most from a long-term fixed rate, or do you want a lower, short-term rate because you plan to move soon or expect your income to increase rapidly over the next few years?
Determine how much house you can afford -How much of a mortgage can you qualify for? The loan amount plus your down payment tells you how much house you can afford.
Investigate neighborhood prices - What neighborhoods feature homes in your price range?
Separate needs from wants - What are your priorities for your next home? How important are public transportation, community facilities, on-street parking, lot size, privacy? How many bedrooms and baths will you need? Will you need a space for a home office? How important are quality neighborhood schools?
There is a lot to do, but you are giving yourself plenty of time to do your homework - good for you and best of luck!