You have some very interesting posts here. I can understand why you might be thinking that your plan is the best, however I admire you for asking for input.
We get a lot of questions from Trulia from a lot of people in various circumstances. The questions that I see in most cases have a common thread - market expertise. Knowing the market is not something that you just pick up or absorb from talking with a few listing agents and seeing a few open houses. Even Trulia does not replace market expertise. That's why their business model includes Realtors.
A good Realtor will sit down with you, before you see a home, and analyze your needs and wants. Help you be pre-qualified. Help you determine your priorities, listen to your concerns. This consultation is very important for one simple reason. In most cases every home is unique. The market is always changing.
Once the Realtor knows what you profile is like, they probably have a pretty good idea of homes that will meet your need. The problem is that once the homes are sold, they are gone.
The biggest issue I see with buyers is that they think they have all the time in the world. "It's a buyer's market, there are lots of homes for sale, why do I need to hurry?"
The truth is that of the homes on the market in a given area, the 80/20- rule applies. 80% of the homes are over-priced and need work. Less than 20% of the homes are priced right, and fewer are in great shape. Do you want to put a lot of money into your new home, or should it be ready to move in?
I would estimate fewer than 5% of the homes currently for sale meet those criteria- priced rate and ready to move in. And you know that these homes sell in a few days, some are sold even before they hit the market. The marketing remarks so "sold before processing". Because the really good deals never get out of the sales office. Agents in that office find out during the preparation process and tip off their buyers and BAM!, they are in escrow.
So while you are planning and looking, the perfect house could be put up for sale, bought, and you'll never know. Even a FOR SALE sign may never go up, it happens that fast.
I do have suggestion. I would be happy to refer you a top Buyer's agent that specializes in your area that you can interview, no obligation on your part. Sort of like taking a test drive. In most markets a very small percentage of the agents do most of the work, so you want a full-time, professional that is not going to pressure you, but will tell you the truth and give you the inside track.
Best of luck to you!