1) Saving, saving, saving
2) Making sure your credit is in order, and repairing any problems that appear on your credit report. You can get your credit report free online, OR have a qualified mortgage bank/broker run the credit report for you. They can also give you an idea of what your approximate price range will be based on your current finances and even project out a bit based on your anticipated future savings/salary increases etc.
3) Not make any major credit card purchases
4) Not being late on any credit card payments
5) Start doing some research on the areas via the internet.
6) Visit the towns you may be interested in. Drive around, maybe even go to a few open houses on a Sunday afternoon to get an idea of location, price etc.
7) If you will be commuting to NYC for work, try to do the commute to and from to see how it fares up.
8) Speak to a local agent who is familiar with the area. Local agents know their territory very well, and once they know your needs, can recommend towns you may not even have considered.
9) If you need to sell your home, get it on the market before your projected move. Speak to a local agent in NYC too, get get an idea of the time it is taking to sell a home in your area.
10) About 5-6 months before your planned move, start looking at homes. Typically from contract to close takes 60-90 days so you will have time to find a home and close in your desired timeframe.