I've had to deal with cleaning up post-divorce poor credit, so I might be of some assistance.
You have to think of credit sort of like an employment history on a resume for someone without a degree. In most cases, if you have no experience, you ain't gettin' the job no matter how good you'd be at it
. It takes time to build that experience... creditors look at your credit history to know if you're a risk for not paying on time -or- not paying at all. If you have no history, they can't tell and aren't likely to just trust you. Unfortunately, unless you have a large down payment or find some kind of assistance (maybe someone knows a specific program), it's just going to be tough. They've set up a total catch-22. I got out from under it by my "new" husband, who had better credit than I did, adding my name to his cards... as he paid on his debt, it registered on my credit, too. Within a couple of years my credit had improved probably 200 points.
You may not be able to get the house in the time frame you've set. A lot of companies will easily give a credit line of $500 (usually with high interest) for someone with no credit, so get one, put a couple hundred on it and pay like clockwork every month... don't pay it off too soon or you're not establishing history. Be very
careful, though, because those high rate cards can get away from you if you're not careful and ruin what you're trying to build. Get another one or two to charge small things to that you pay off in a couple of months, but keep at least one with a manageable balance that you just pay monthly on.
It's not much, but it will get you started. Unless you find a resource for assistance to no-credit home buyers, it may be a year or two before you can convince a lender that you're good for it.
Oh yes, I have to disagree that you should apply to everything you see. Applications register on your credit, too, because your credit lists all the times someone has looked at it. Some creditors see that as negative. Do one at a time and just see if you're approved before you go to the next one and try. Credit is a funny thing, you gotta be super careful.