Save for down payment, closing costs
Depending on your credit and financing, you'll typically need to save enough money for a down payment -- somewhere between 3 percent and 20 percent of the home's price.
If you're using FHA financing, then you need a credit score of 500 or higher. And in the 500 to 579 range, if you can find a lender, you'll have to put 10 percent down instead of 3.5 percent.
One exception: Veterans Affairs loans, which require no down payment.
Don't forget loan fees
Another cash expense: closing costs. Whatever your loan source, you'll also need money to pay closing costs, which run (depending on where you live ) from $2,300 to $4,000. Get the average closing costs in your state at Bankrate's closing costs map.
Improve your chances by: banking your own money and seeking down payment assistance, Tiffany says. Often it's location-based or tagged to a certain type of buyer, like first-timers, she says. Search online with the city name, then the county name, along with word combinations such as "down payment assistance," "first-time homebuyers" and "homebuyer's assistance."
In a buyer's market, you can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of the closing costs.