Before you buy anything, check out the location you are buying in. Good source is http://www.city-data.com/
It's important to know the crime rate, school quality, city problems, etc. Also a realtor who specializes in an area would be better than one who is not familiar with the area (if they are willing to drive all over the place for you to begin with). You can very well have different agents for different areas. You can find a lot of info by internet search or talking to Open House agents-- even sign up with them if you like them. Hot deals can be gone in 2 days...so you definitely need an agent and get prequalified if you need a loan.