My response is a bit late, but I too wanted to answer some of the questions from your inquiry.
Opinions vary with regard to the starting point. Lenders often suggest that the first step in the process is having them pull your credit. Mine (a real estate agent - surprise, surprise) is that the first stop should be with a local real estate agent who will listen to you, understand your wants and needs and then provide a list of the right lenders, inspectors, and other resources with whom they've worked who help you manage uncertainty, manage expectations and get you safely to the closing table.
Need a potentially forgivable loan (interest and monthly payment-free, of course) for the down payment and closing costs? We know who participates in the right down payment assistance programs (http://www.AtlantaDownpaymentAssistance.com) and how those programs work.
Another good starting point would be a review of your credit report. Pull your own reports from the big three bureaus so that you can avoid the hard inquiry caused by a lender pull and ensure that everything is being reported accurately. You'll want to make the best presentation to the lender and six-to-nine months is plenty of time to confirm accuracy or make any needed adjustments.
Yet another good starting point would be a local home buying class. There are several HUD-certified home buying classes in the area, but you'll need to know the ones that are recognized by the home buying programs who offer those down payment assistance options. Again, that is where a good agent can be of assistance.
There's an infographic at the link below that provides a pathway to home ownership.
I'd welcome the opportunity to speak with you. When time permits, will you please call me at (678) 775-2677? You can also like Metro Atlanta Down Payment Assistance on Facebook to keep up with the frequent changes in local home buying programs and search for homes listed in the two MLS systems at http://www.TheAtlantaHomePages.com.
Either way, all my best for a successful home search.
Georgia Real Estate Brokers Associate
REALTOR®, Certified Affordable Housing Counselor
Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners
There are some programs available in the Atlanta area. The FHLB grant gives $5000 to put with your $1000 for a down payment. There are others that offer grant funds to teachers/police officers/firemen.
I have worked with many first time home buyers in the Atlanta area. I strive to educate buyers and empower them to make necessary decisions along the way.
If I can help with getting started, please let me know.
Good luck and happy house hunting! It's an exciting process!!