Hi Phillicia, I would suggest contacting a lender who offers free credit repair in case it's needed. Contact a lender now in order to get pre-qualified and start working on credit issues, if applicable. I would NOT start looking at houses now, however, since five months is quite a ways off.
Our listings average about 40 days on market, and that includes short sales which are notorious for taking a long time. If you are considering short sales, I would probably start looking 90 days before your lease expires. If looking at regular resales or REO/bank owned, I would probably start 60 days prior to lease expiration. Understand that finding a house and successfully closing involves many steps, and it will be very difficult to time a closing to perfectly coincide with your lease expiration. The majority of today's market is comprised of short sales, which take 3-6 months to close, and REO/bank owned which take 30-45 days.
Whatever you do, make sure you can continue your tenancy on a month-to-month basis if needed. Jesse Singh @ 1st Rate Home Mortgage (480-776-2555) is one of the valley's best lenders and offers some of the lowest rates in town. He's also a good friend of mine. When shopping for a realtor, make sure you find one who represents a fair number of buyers (not just listings) and has experience with short sales and foreclosures. If possible, hire a buyer's agent who works on a short sale or REO team. You'll get someone who understands the market and has the appropriate level of expertise.
My team closes an average of 100 properties annually and we do mostly REO and short sales. We have three buyer's agents who work exclusively with buyers and have extensive training on short sales and REO. We would be happy to assist you and discuss your needs. Call my office at 480-302-9650.