Its not a waste of time to contact a Realtor, but you do need help finding your way through the maze of options out there. You don't need a buyer's agent specifically, but someone who specializes in helping first time home buyers would be very useful.
There's a lot available in your price range, and depending on your details, there may be special programs you can take advantage of to maximize your buying power.
I work with a lot of first-time homebuyers and would be happy to help you since I work in your area. If you don't choose me, please choose someone who won't rush you, who understands that buying your first home is a special event and, especially important, someone willing to educate and advise you every step of the way.
I recommend finding a Realtor before looking for a home. You'll be less likely to make a mistake using a good Realtor, and a good Realtor will make sure you understand the process.
With your first contact, your Realtor should be able to email you a list of available homes meeting criteria you discuss over the phone or via email, such as how many bedrooms and baths, and what particular area or type of home. This will help you feel a bit more comfortable. When she/he calls back, you can ask for help locating a mortgage advisor. For mortgages, while I recommend people, I also suggest you look - and shop on your own for rates once you have an idea of what's necessary (again, your Realtor should be able to help you). After that, you will actually look at homes. This is where you and your Realtor will discover what it is you really want in a home as you see several and comment on your personal likes and dislikes. A Realtor is invaluable in helping you manage the homes you'll see, whether resales or in new communities. A good Realtor will know the communities and will have seen many homes. Ask if they go on "caravan". A good Realtor knows the inventory.
Please feel free to contact me by phone or email. I'll be happy to send you that first list of homes, and naturally, feel free to look at my web site, where you can peruse all of the homes on your own too.
Its an exciting adventure, buying your first home. Good luck!