You really should start soon as every step of the process is taking much longer now. You must get pre-qualified first, then you need time to search for a suitable property, hopefully with an experienced agent. After your agent has negotiated for you, the contract phase is taking much longer, a couple of weeks in many cases. Banks are very backed up, so after you apply for your mortgage, it is taking a lot longer to get your commitment. Then, for a co-op, you have to add a month for board approval. Then banks are adding ridiculous amounts of time to clear buyers for closing. They are sometimes adding an entire extra month of rechecking and foot-dragging, which is holding up NYC sales closings to a ridiculous degree. For a co-op, better allow at least 4 months and 3 for a condo. Two of my very recent condo purchasers had their loans stuck in underwriting for a good month beyond the expected closing date. The banks just can't handle the volume right now and it is not easing, if anything getting worse.