Great question Morgan, it is one that is asked all the time and you will get a variety of answers since there is no one perfect answer.
Think of it as buying a car. Your friends at Ford say come to their lot first; your friends at Dodge says they have the newest cars; your friends XYZ imports say they are a better value; a friend has a friend that says a Honda is kind of an import but assembled in America so it is better, yet you read online that at the used car lot someone else already paid for a lot of the upfront depreciation so they are a good deal.
Therefore, what I tell my clients is to start with yourself, not with a lender or a Realtor! Take first time home buyer classes that teach you the process so you know what to compare and how to compare. Find out what your strengths are and your weaknesses so you can team up with a lender and a Realtor that bring value overcoming your weaknesses. For example, if you need help with lower down payment or closing costs, you might choose a different lender that if you were putting 20% down and could pay your own closing costs. If your credit is good, you will have more choices. Some programs cater to low to moderate income buyers while other due to the lower income would decline you, etc.
The basic rules are pretty simple: 1) credit: if your credit is good, you can pick an choose between lenders, remember that online lenders only skim the cream off the top; 2) down payment: the more you put down the better it is for you and the less restrictions. 20% or more is preferred, but there are programs with only 3 1/2 % down and even still some 100% financing options available; 3) closing costs are different for each type of loan. Make sure you know what to expect from each.
What I do when I counsel my buyers is I do it all backwards (kind of like when you got stuck on a math problem in school you could look up the odd numbered questions in the back). Instead of trying to teach my clients about each loan program, I learn about what they have for resources and let them start learning specifically about the loan options that work best for them! Why take the time to explain about things that are irrelevant to you?
Also, some of the first time home buyer classes like Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a program called Finally Home. I have taught the real estate segment of that for years. Upon completion, you get a certificate that can be used with some lenders on programs that might reduce down payments, closing costs, etc. and even qualify you for special programs since they feel better about lending to people that have taken the time to learn about the process!
I know I gave you a path, not an answer, but I hope it helps!