it's good that you are thinking ahead. As has been mentioned, passing the required time limit is just the first step. Since you know what you want, putting a plan of action in place now will help you be ready when the time comes.
I suggest you meet with a local lender to ask their advice on how best to proceed.
They will probably tell you to pay your bills on time, don't accrue any more debt, and start saving--even if you can only save $20/month. Savings and investments are what is meant when the financial gurus tell us to pay ourselves first. (Not saving for a shopping spree; saving money that will accumulate over the years)
Besides a mortgage lender, meet with a realtor. Make a commitment to that realtor and ask the realtor to commit to you. S/he can help keep you apprised of the housing situation in your area as well as informing you of changes in real estate law and mortgage lending practices. Being well-informed will put you in a better position when you are actually ready to purchase. Your realtor can also set you up with daily, weekly, or biweekly email updates describing the houses for sale, sold, pended, etc in your area. S/he can also get you a list of Open Houses in your area on Sundays. Then you can spend an hour or two some Sundays visiting homes in person to familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods and condiition of homes in your desired area.
When it is time to buy, you will have a good idea of what you'd like in a home.
Your realtor can help you determine what you can get for the money.
They can also help you see what could be done to improve the house and make it more of what you want in the way of finishes.
When you buy, ask your realtor to help you find a house needing the least amount of corrections.
Location is #1.
Find the best house you can afford in the area you'd like to live in.
Find one with a floor plan that suits your lifestyle.
Then look at foundation and mechanicals. These are the critical elements.
Paint color, cabinets, countertops, appliances, built-ins, are all fluff and can be changed.
Pay attention to things like insulation and windows.
Ask your realtor to help you figure out the cost of thermal windows. If the home you purchase does not have these, adding them will increase the home's value, lower your utility bills, and provide an additional tax deduction for you. There may be funds available to you for the actual purchase and installation of the thermal windows. Same with insulation and doors.
If the house needs painting, try adding this powder to whatever paint you select:
Hy-Tech ThermaCells - this is a ceramic additive that gives paint insulative qualities; it is used by NASA, USFS, FEMA, FAA, Army Corps of Engineers, and more. The additive costs money up front but saves you money by lowering your utility bills. Hy-Tech is located at 159 Parkhill Blvd. W. Melbourne, FL 32904
phone # 321-984-9777
One of my clients introduced me to this product after showing me a 25% reduction in heating/cooling bills after applying the paint.
Your realtor will have tips like these for you after the purchase of your home too. Most of us keep lists of vendors that work on home's; we provide these to our clients so you don't have to spend a lot of time looking for someone who will do good work at a fair price.
By working with a lender and a realtor now, you can develop and stick to a plan that will get you where you want to be in the next year.
Best wishes for your success,