Buying your first home should be an exciting and enjoyable experience. Going about things in the wrong order can keep this from happening, and even discourage people.

There is no "right answer", although most realtors will tell you to meet with a lender to see how much home you can qualify for. While it's definitely going to be required at some point in the process, does it have to be the first thing? No.

Today you can look at nearly every home online and see photos which give you a very good idea of what each home is like. There is nothing wrong with looking at a few homes first before meeting with a lender. Sometimes seeing homes first really makes it clear as to what your gut feeling is on whether or not you are ready to own a home.

Also, it shouldn't matter how much you qualify for, it should matter in terms of how much of a monthly payment you are comfortable with. If you know you can make a monthly payment comfortably it makes the process of finding a home much more enjoyable.

No matter what the market it like, look at homes in the price range you are comfortable with. Don't look thousands over in hopes of getting the seller to lower the price. Usually that only ends up in disappointment or stretching you to the limits of your comfortableness.