If it's your first time home-buying, it can be hard knowing right from wrong, what to do, and what not to do.
Some of the ideas listed below will save you money; other are simply good ideas. All will make your life easier in the long run.
1. Don't call the listing agent - It seems so easy, and the listing agent wants you to do it: you see their name on the sign and you call them to learn more about the house. Don't. They work for the seller. While they'll be happy to help you, their first loyalty is to the seller. You will not necessarily get a better price by calling the listing agent. It's their job to get the seller the best price they can. What you really need is a buyer's agent; someone who is dedicated to getting you what you need, including the best price.
2. No looking without the contract - Don't go out to look at houses until you've signed a contract with a buyer's agent. That lets them know you're serious and that you have serious expectations. Important point: Only work with one agent at a time. It's bad form to have a bunch of people running around trying to help you. You can always change agents if and when you need to.
3. Get pre-approved - Don't even bother putting in an offer without a pre-approval letter. That letter tells the seller that you have the backing of the bank for your mortgage. If the seller gets comparable offers and one has pre-approval, they will always choose the one that doesn't have the risk of being turned down for a mortgage. Getting pre-approved is simple, and will help you get the house you want. If you're paying via cash, have the proof of funds letter ready.
4. Be there when you say you will - Home showings usually take a lot of effort. Often, two agents need to coordinate, then they have to work with the seller to get the house cleared out. Not showing up or even being late is simply rude. Worse, it's going to leave a bad taste in everyone's mouths, and you might find yourself without any help to find a new home.
5. If you ain't ready, forget it - Everyone from the home sellers to the agents are trying to make money and a living. Don't waste everyone's time if you're not really ready to buy a house. If you want to window shop, go to open houses. That's what they're for. Don't take up people's time if you're not really ready to buy. Everyone prefers to work with people who are serious.
These are all really simple rules, and they don't require a lot of commitment in time or emotions. Just make them happen, and your home buying experience will be much better.