what a great time to be a home buyer! I agree with the post below, first step, which you can do NOW, this week, is get preapproved for a mortgage. some potential home buyers apply for a mortgage to find out there is something on their credit that will take time to resolve. asap talk to a lender. many of my buyers have worked with wintrust mortgage, they are great, you can reach Deb Roth at 708-326-9810.
After you have an idea of what type of payment you qualify for, review your own comfort level and decide what you want to spend on a house - then set your price limit (just because you can buy a $250,000 house, doesnt mean you have to). also sit down and write out what is important to you in a home- size, amenities, etc (what is important to you and what is important to you fiance may not be the same).
Next step is to chose a buyer's agent. find an agent that is familiar with the area you are considering, full time, qualified, experienced and one that you like (you may be spending a lot of time with this person). Talk to friends, co-workers, look at trulia and other resources to select 2-3 agents that look like a good fit. Call them and ask them to arrange showings for you to see one or two houses of interest. This will give you a chance to meet and determine if you would be a good fit to work together. Once you select one agent to be your buyer's agent, your agent can set up searches for you. Over the next few months you can look on line at houses of interest. then in a month or two you can seriously start looking at places in person to find the right home. Once you find a place and are under contract to close a 'normal' transaction typically takes 30-45 days, short sales MUCH longer. So if you are patient and want to consider short sales, you can start the process right away.