When you have been pre-approved by your lender, review your budget and decide on a maximum payment you will be comfortable with. Don't bet on a raise at your job. Then sit down and make a list of needs and wants. You might want granite, but you need a specific number of bedrooms. You should take location into account - it is the primary factor in determining the value of property.
When you have done these things, select a real estate professional who will agree to show you the things you need and want, in the area you wish to reside. Most buyers today are very proactive, choosing prospective homes from the multiple listings provided by their REALTOR. These searches are very specific, so be sure you limit your "wants" from your needs, in order to prevent elimination of many qualifying homes.
Know that the market moves bery quickly in some parts of town. If you are shopping there, you will need to "pull the trigger" before someone else buys the home you want. Your option period will provide the time you need to inspect and be sure you have chosen the right home. The option fee is a small loss if you decide the home is not right for you.
Choose an agent that is willing to show as many homes as it takes to find the right one for you.
Good luck, and happy home hunting!