What You NEED to Know When Purchasing a Home:
Right now is a great market for first time home buyers! Interest rates are still low and home prices are plummeting. If you have been renting all this time, now is your time to buy. Wouldn't you rather have your monthly rent payment every month going toward equity in your home rather than into someone else's pocket? Well...here is some advice to help you start your journey to home ownership. Also, check out my site at nakedrealestate.org. There you will find lots of useful information regarding the path to ownership as well.
First and foremost, you need to find a good mortgage professional who will take care of you and explain the mortgage process rather than fleece you. Some mortgage brokers/loan officers see first time home buyers as targets because they can make more money on then since they are inexperienced in home ownership. A good mortgage professional will prequalify you based on your income and credit rating. They will make sure you do not max out your budget so there is still room for savings every month.
Secondly, you need to find a good real estate agent who has all of your best interests in mind. One of the reasons I became an agent (rather than just a mortgage broker) was because my husband and I had such a TERRIBLE agent when we purchased our first home. We were taken to the cleaners! Having a good agent is VERY important because he or she will explain every step along the way so you wont be left in the dark.
Thirdly, make sure you have a good home inspector. The most important things to check are the roof, foundation, structural integrity, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. In newer homes you will have a new roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical, but there still may be structural issues. With older homes you definitely need to see how old the roof is and how old the systems are. You also need to make sure the electrical has been upgraded and that there is not new plumbing tied into old pipe.
If you can nail down those three things, you should have a fairly stress free home buying process. A good agent and good mortgage professional should help to greatly facilitate this process. Good luck and happy house hunting!