we didn't start the home visits part of our actual home study before our august orientation last year, but we did take the advice of others here and went ahead and picked an agency to do the home study and we sent off all of our requests to the FBI and state for background criminal checks. I had heard that those could take a long time to come in so I wanted to get those underway early. (In the end, the FBI was the fastest, just two weeks, but the state of California background checks for my husband took more than a month because they do it all by hand in the golden state and my husband's name is a common one there so they just took forever.) I also went ahead and sent off for official copies of our birth certificates, marriage certificates (and any past divorces, if that is applicable for anyone) and all of that.
we waited to do the home visits and such so that we'd have abrazo's requirements in hand and the home study would be done to their specifications.
our orientation was late august and our final home study visit was something like sept. 24 and the report sent off soon afterward. so it didn't take long once we had all of our paperwork in order.