All of the suggestions you have received are great...in addition, there are properties out there that are only available to individuals with specific income limits, you may want to look into those as well.
I just pulled the info on a development in Gray, Maine that offers housing to individuals and families that are under a certain income level.
I would be happy to send you that information, please let me know how I can help.
I am an inspector not an agent but I know several good ones... if you want a couple names email me and I can forward... Talking with a good mortgage professional is key... they can help you determine what is within your means... I know some of them as well. As mentioned, the homeWorks program is a good starting point... but they are scheduled/booked in advance... I've been an instructor at a few of them on the home inspection portion of the class.
Feel free to contact me or check me out online... I would be happy to help you in any way!
I am glad you are doing your homework and asking lots of questions. There are a number of resources I feel that may be very useful for you to investigate. Firstly, as an educator for the state I am delighted to pass along information about the hoMEworks class. A first time homebuyer class, or simply a refresher course, this is an excellent place to start getting a solid education about the people, process and paperwork involved in the homebuying process. The class also has content from budgeting to tax considerations, incentives to title insurance. Many professionals from the lending, real estate and legal profession gladly give of their time to help people just like yourself get a great start in the homebuying process.
There are many classes around the state and felxible hours mean they meet most people's schedule and availability.
Here is the link to the HoMEworks website:
The other place to check your options financially is through the USDA Rural Development Program. They have a "Guaranteed" and "Direct" program for first time homebuyers linked ot income and some other variables. They would be a super place to start and here is their link:
Good luck Emily.
I would recommend you speak with a mortgage broker so that they can accurately assess your particular situation. There are a lot of people with good intentions giving advice out there, but unless they have experience in the real estate/mortgage field I wouldn't put too much weight on their advice...rely on a professional!
As far as finding a good real estate agent, I would highly recommend a Realtor, there's a difference! Find out if friends or co-workers have experience with anyone they would recommend, go to open houses and check out the Realtors hosting...it's a great way to see someones personality so you'll know if you'll be able to work well together. Don't be afraid to "interview" more than one.
If you need recommendations on a mortgage broker or Realtor, I'd be happy to provide you with some names/contact info.
Office 207-799-7600 x107
If you'd like to contact me to set up a brief meeting, my office in conveniently located in Portland, my web site has my contact information. Good luck!