You've already gotten good advice on the credit score front so I won't say all that again.
Here are some things to remember:1) There are lots of wonderfully cute houses that you will love living in.
So don't give a damn about the first few you find. There will be more. If your emotions get involved in how cute it is, or how perfect it is, you'll be more easily manipulated into paying too much.2) Is this house to live in? Or is it an investment? Or is it both?
(Hint: There is no "both" answer. It is an investment or it isn't. You just might happen to live in it for awhile before you decide to make money on it. It's an important distinction.)
If it's an investment there's a whole lot of stuff to learn to make sure it's a good investment before you buy it. The normal "how to buy a house" articles on personal finance sites are generally worthless for this purpose.3) Are you willing to work to save money? Possibly a bundle of money?
If you are flexible on when you buy, and you are willing to do a lot of work to the house after you buy it (that's "you" as in you and your spouse, not "you" as in some hired hands), then you can save a lot. You might save anywhere from 20% to 60%. Learning that real estate investment stuff can pay real dividends if you go this route as there are ways to reduce the amount of cash you need to put a deal together plus it can help you learn how to find a good property. 4) Look at the property with a very critical eye.
Ignore what you like about it and focus on what you don't like. It will help you see a truer picture of the house.5) Transportation
How close are you to public transit? Are you planning to age in place? If so, being within the ADA distance of a bus route means you can get picked up and dropped off for a nominal fee if you can no longer get to the bus. Can you reduce the number of cars you need or the number of miles they will need to be driven?6) Don't trust the bank for the max loan amount
The bank will milk you for as much of a loan as they think you can pay back, not a smaller loan that will help you accumulate wealth by investing the difference.7) Buyers agents still get paid more if you pay more for the house.
Their heart may not be in telling you to walk away or how to get that price lower.8) Use public data
Zillow.com will (often) give you last sale info (date and $ amount). The county registrar of deeds can get you that same info. It can also let you check for liens on the property like a mortgage, heloc, mechanics lien, etc. Our county website will actually let us read the actual documents online!
For mortgages and helocs, you can google for the historic median mortgage interest rate. See http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/pmms30.htm
for an example. Use a mortgage calculator to figure out about how much they might still owe. See https://www.drcalculator.com/mortgage/
for an example. This will give you an idea of the lowest price they can go without losing money on the sale. Don't forget about realtor commissions and closing costs in that calculation. You might need some help getting the registrar info, a lot of counties don't use the street address. They use things like book and plat number. Zillow.com often has that info, and I think MLS does as well.9) Does the seller have a lot of equity?
Equity is the value left over after paying off all house-related debts and sales costs. Let's say you're buying that house from an elderly person who is moving into a nursing home or into their kids house. In that case, they don't need all the cash right away to purchase another house. If they are just going to put the cash they get into the bank at 0.25% interest, maybe they would rather get 8 times as much interest from you. (How would you know that? You ask what their plans are.) They might be happy acting as the bank to get more money overall. Of course, if they are 2 years into a 30 year mortgage, none of that is likely to work.
Sadly, I don't think many realtors know how to do this or are interested in learning. In fact, the seller's agent can get in the way because, well, they can and will. So if you can find someone who wants to sell before they have a realtor you're better off. (Back to that real estate investment education I mentioned to learn how to do that.)10) Hire a home inspector that you choose, not the one your realtor chooses.
You want the inspector to work for you, not be beholden to the realtor for the work.
Go everywhere the inspector goes (including the yucky parts!) and listen to what they tell you. Then, when you look at the next house, use that knowledge to figure out what's wrong. Actually, just go look at a bunch of houses for the next 6 months even though you aren't ready to buy. (Don't waste your realtor's time. Just walk around the outside of the house and, if it's empty, look in the windows.) Practice looking for problems on houses you aren't emotionally attached to.11) Learn the neighborhoods.
A lot of people in my city have zero idea how many really nice neighborhoods there are. The more houses you look at, the more you learn your city. You'll get a much better idea of what the houses are really worth and which parts of town you would like to be in. And, while you're looking around, talk to people in their yards. Ask them if they know anyone who's thinking of selling their house. If you see an empty house that's not for sale, check it out. You might be the first one to talk to the person and you might get a better deal that way.
Hope that helps!