Hi Alun, yes by all means you can - first let me say that you are buying into an improving market and inventory is moving quickly - not all of it of course but if properly priced for what it has to offer, it moves fast and multiple offers are possible - in the "hotest towns" even probable.
Your target communities are in demand - for good reason - so you are wise to do your research so that you are ready to act when the time approaches for the purchase. You can use this time to familiarize yourself with the market and the types of inventory your budget will include. It is unlikely that the most desirable inventory available now will await a fall purchase.
As far as connecting the dots to prior listing periods, that is a service your local agent can provide. If you'd like to get a sense of it, I can help you with that. You can use this research period to gain knowledge and find the agent that has the analytic and negotiating skills you need to drill into data and negotiate the best deal for you.
I am working right now with a buyer that has a shorter timeline that you do - but is in India and will be most of the time leading up to the purchase/closing. We are accomplishing a great deal remotely -using email and periodic phone calls to progress. I am his "eyes" here in NJ - using thorough previews to identify inventory that is worth his consideration.
Once we do, then providing a detailed review of the pricing history of the home, comparable data and a pricing recommendation to guide negotiations is part of the service I provide.
I'd be happy to help you in the same way.
Hope this was helpful to you.
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