Work with a Local Real Estate Agent in the area where you choose to Buy.
A local Realtor has the expertise, experience and knowledge of the local area, including such things as zoning, future development issues, sewer and water infrastructures and will have all the contacts you need to help in your specific purchase.
Tell any Realtor that you contact, up front, if you have established a Buyer Representation Relationship with another agent.
This is important because we can not interfere with another Realtor's client. If you are unsure about Realtor relationships you can find details on my Blog under Buyer Representation or please feel free to contact me.
Sign a Buyer Representation Agreement when you are ready to Hire a Realtor.
There is no law that says you have to sign an agreement before you see a property, so don't be pressured into this contract without fully understanding it's impact. A Buyer Represenation Agreement is an Exclusive Agreement, so you want to make sure you are Hiring the right person for the job. A Buyer Representation Agreement has NO OBLIGATION for you to buy, so don't be afraid of this commitment. Be sure you fully understand what you are signing. You can find details on my Website and on my Blog.
Qualifying or shopping for a Realtor is your perogative.
Working with one Realtor will take a lot of confusion out of the process. An agent will provide insight and value through every step of the transaction. However, if you haven't yet found that Realtor, but have found the property you want to buy, then, Buy through the Realtor that showed it to you.
Rely on your Realtor to know what you want and help you find it!
Buyers almost never end up buying the property seen on-line. On-line shopping is great, it gives you an idea of availability, price and features, but it's not like seeing it in person...and you don't have the luxury of having the depth of knowledge that a Realtor can offer.
Be prepared to spend time with an Agent to strategize.
Rather than looking at specific properties and trying to fit them into your needs...talk about what your needs, wants and desires are then fit the property selection around you. Make sure you can differentiate between your "must haves" and wants so that you don't miss that great place that gets excluded.
Start viewing properties when you have decided to buy.
If you are not planning to buy in the near future, what you see today is most likely not what will be on the market a year from now or even months from now. Inventory and price is forever changing, the time to be serious about buying is when you're ready.