I say the earliest you start the better, regardless of where you're thinking of buying. If you're financing, by meeting with a Loan Officer now and getting your finances in order, allows you to now make other decisions that will impact the areas where you'll shop for, type and size of houses or condos you can consider, etc. There are several things that you as a buyer need to determine and it all starts with financing.
There are so many things in your personal live that can be factors, that's almost impossible for anyone to answer this question, so the earliest you get started the better off you'll be! Do you have a lease on your rental now? are you living with family and pressed for time as to when you must find a new place? Do you need more time to save up for down payment? etc.
If you're in need of a Loan Officer, I am always available to meet face-to-face in our NYC offices. Good luck!
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Senior Loan Officer
STERLING NATIONAL BANK
310 Crossways Park Drive
Woodbury, NY 11797