Once the decision to buy a home has been made, take the time to prepare before you go on your home search.
Get your financial house in order first! We can't stress this enough--it will save you an enormous amount of time, aggravation and heartache.
Determine what your budget will comfortably allow and stick to it. Don't spend yourself into a "house poor" situation.
Get preapproved for a mortgage. This will not only give you a clear idea of how much a lender will approve for you, it will make your homebuying process a great deal easier (and save a lot of time later).
Get familiar with the different housing types available to narrow your search.
Determine your minimum requirements as well as any desired additional features--your needs and wants.
Take note of any items that you don't want in a house.
Determine the desired location (schools, work, public transportation, etc.)
Familiarize yourself with the mortgage process.
Choose an Agent that you feel comfortable with and who understands your needs. Be completely aware of the Agency issue. If you look for houses before you have your own Agent, you may not have the representation you want.
Use all resources available in looking for homes: Friends, relatives, a good Real Estate Agent, advertisements.
Don't just buy a home for your present needs. Make sure to take into account future considerations.
As you are looking, use a scorecard to compare homes. A scorecard is a great tool when it comes time for comparisons (and for remembering which home had which features!)
Get familiar with the inspection process--especially the personal inspection aspect, so that you can weed out unacceptable houses quickly
Maintain your perspective--and your cool! You may find an acceptable house on the first day--or the tenth. The important thing is to get the home that is best for you!