What a slew of questions and concerns. Time to find a local agent or Realtor, and have them help educate you on the buying process in today's market. All the questions you asked, plus many more are and will be answered by a "good" agent or Realtor. You can use Trulia to find one, or Zillow (which has past clients write reviews of agents). Personally, I believe a good referral is important. Ask co-workers, friends, and family if they had a positive experience with an agent and get started on your questions. Are you pre-approved? That should be done before you start looking as well. Best of luck.