The more you know about an area and prices, the more you know about what's available where, the better. Now, working backwards, if you want to move in during July or August, that means making an offer that's accepted by April-June. You may not see anything you like for a few weeks (maybe even more), once you're seriously looking. So, that means beginning your serious looking in March-May. And before you begin your serious looking, you'll probably want to choose a Realtor. The conventional advice, which is solid, is to interview at least three. Get a feel for their styles and their suggestions.
And guess what? This is already mid-February. That gives you 2-10 weeks to get to know the areas, get a feel for prices and price trends, check out the separate condo developments, figure out how your commute to work might be affected, and so on. If you have children and use day care, you'll want to check that out, too. And you'll want to check out the local schools. It also doesn't give you much time to address any credit issues you might have. You should immediately check your credit, identify weak spots (a good mortgage broker could help), and work to strengthen them.
Hope that helps.