As the others have said, finding out what you can afford is the first step. Next think about how much work you are willing to put into the home. The foreclosed homes and short sales tend to need some work. Are you ready to learn or do you already know how to fix up various aspects of a home. Paint and carpet are one thing, but many need a new roof, siding windows, etc.. These items will cost more when you pay others to do them for you.
You also may qualify for the first time buyers credit of $8000 which is available if you close by 12-1-2009. This is a great time to buy.
I have a copy of the Realtors Home Buying Guide that I could send you. I am also located in Coon Rapids and have lived in the area most of my life.
2. Location. You can fix, update and personalize a lot of things in a home but you can't change location. Do you like the feel of the neighborhood, is it close to what's important to you? (job, family, recreation, church, friends, ...) Check with the local police to learn of crime statistics for the area or school district to learn of levy's, school performance, etc.
3. Features. Write down separately what you both need and want in a home and then compare notes. Examples: # of bedrooms, # of garage stalls, # of bathrooms, townhome vs. single family, age of home
4. Look. Get out and look at homes, take notes, decide at the end of each day of looking what you liked and didn't like, what you learned.
Don't be afraid to change your mind! As you look at homes, you'll be learning a lot about what you need and want in a home and forming your opinions. Looking in person is A LOT different than looking on-line. Know up-front that your home search and looking at homes will be an education and a process. Plan on starting to look around 3 months in advance of when you want to move in and have patience.
2). Get pre-approved
3). Look at a bunch of homes within the area(s) that you are wanting
4). Once you have looked at several homes, narrow down some "must-have" items (3 bedrooms, 2 bath, private owner's suite, n'hood specifics, and so on). Your agent can direct you on high return items, market specifics, and so on. Look at more homes and at this point, you will be pretty knowledgeable in the market.
5). When you are ready, start writing offers. If you are looking for that "deal" don't be afraid to write several offers.
C: 612 396-0692
If you haven't already purchased a home I have a short list that I advise buyers to focus on.
1. Get Pre-Qualified by a Mortgage Company or Your Local Banker
2. Figure out where you want to live and where you don't want to live
3. Hire an agent to help you - it's FREE to you (the sellers always pay the commissions)
4. Don't buy without an inspection
5. Get the deal done - if you're interested in the first time home buyers tax credit of $8,000 your purchase needs to close before November 30th - If I were you I would shoot for early November to avoid any disaapointments - the end of November is going to crazy busy.
6. Visit my web site - I try to share useful, updated information for buyers and sellers.
You have some great answer below already. I would also encourage you to not make the same mistake that most first time homebuyers do. Don't work with the first or even second agent you meet because they are nice. There are a lot of nice agents out there that won't do a good job representing you. Talk to some family members or friends and ask them for some referrals. If you can't go that route, find a couple of Trulia agents whose values seem to line up with yours (read some of their answers) and set up some phone interviews. Narrow your search down to a couple of agents and set up a meeting with each to talk to them about the process.
As agents we all love the clients who call us and trust us blindly, but you owe yourself more than that. Interview a number of people and find the best fit. Remember that experience is important but isn't everything, and that Trust is probably the most important aspect of the relationship you are about to enter.