The purchase of real estate is one of the most important transactions a person will ever make. The first step is pick out a specific areas to focus your search on. When looking at neighborhoods, check out the quality of schools, the average home prices, the major employers, and the nearby resources (fire station, library, grocery store, etc). After choosing the best area for your family, then it's time to start taking more proactive steps.
Resources for Buyers
A real estate agent will be your major resource for help and information. Your agent will be your access point for the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), which lists all available properties on the market. While many sites allow you to view the MLS, you will need an agent to actually tour the homes. Beyond simply finding you a home, your agent can often help you find a good source of financing.
Financing is a crucial step in the buying process. It's important to be pre-approved for a mortgage before looking seriously at homes. Pre-approval means that you have been fully screened by the lender and approved for a loan; this can be a huge help when the time comes to make an offer. Most sellers will go with candidates that are pre-approved, since there's less risk that the deal will fall through.
Your real estate agent will also be critical when it comes to negotiating and making your offer. It's usually preferable to avoid agents who are working with the home seller, since this can compromise your interests. The home buying process is long and involved, but with the right resources--namely, a good agent--it can be exciting and fun.