Before you start shopping...
Lenders generally recommend to search for homes that cost no more than three to five times your annual household income if you are planning to make a 20% down payment. You should make this determination based on your own financial situation.
After you have examined your finances and affordability with a loan officer you will be given a Pre-Approval or a Pre-Qualification letter. With that letter you will be able to go shop for your dream home.
With so many options, where is the start line? Before you start looking for a home, you will need to have this steps in mind:
Timeframe. When are you planning on moving? Are you looking to build a new home? Then you will need to start shopping approximately 6 months in advance, unless you are looking for a Spec home (new and ready to move in) Are you looking to remodel or maybe save some money with a short sale/foreclosure.
Narrow your search. Begin by selecting the city, neighborhood, community, subdivision. Drive at different times and days to get a feel of the what it would be like to live there.
Amenities. Do you care for a community pool, fitness center, tennis court. Are the schools and public libraries you want zone to that area?