That's a good question and the answer can vary depending on many factors. The first thing to do is make sure you're in a good position to buy; down payment, credit issues cleared up, earnest money, possible funds for repairs, etc. Talking with a good lender beforehand can clear up things you may not even realize are an issue.
The second thing to do is sit down with a buyer's agent and go over your exact needs, wants and goals. From there it would be a good idea to start narrowing down homes and possibilities so you're on track to go after exactly what you want when the time is right. Many first time home buyers often "think" they want something in the beginning of their search only to find out after looking at homes that it wasn't as important to their search as they thought. Starting early will narrow things down and kind of clear your head so you're targeting the right, realistic home for your needs.
Also, there is another factor to consider... not only do you have a time-frame, but so do sellers. There will be sellers that want to close early and some that will not mind a delayed close so they can find another home, move, wait for school to end, etc.
Depending on what the lender says regarding your price range and loan situation, I'd probably start the preliminary search early/late spring and be ready to seriously look and purchase a home early/mid summer.
We'd be happy to help and guide you through the process. Feel free to contact us anytime!
Cecilia Sherrard & Andrew Ginter
RE/MAX NE Ohio