Home ownership is a dream of most Americans and I hope to inspire more to make it a realty. 

It is great if you have a down payment saved up.  3.5%  5% 10% 20% or move all are typical down payments to buy.   Closing costs is another expense that often is 3 % of the sale price.  The more you put down, the lower your monthly payment will be and often your closing costs too.  
Have zero monthly debt is not required.   Debt will lower your purchasing price.  Best to have you lender will advise you on how much is too much. 

First time home buyer programs?  Talk to your lender first.  Many have been eliminated due to budget constraints of local governments.  Others place restrictions on where you buy, price range of the home, income caps and most of the time it requires scrutinize the home which may prevent you from buying a home that needs work. 

We have 3 approaches to buying.
 The Fast Tract,
 Just Looking approach 
The More detailed approach (Work through both lists below.)

Fast tract                       

Call Loan agent.  Have W2 from last year and 2 months bank statements as well as 2 months pay stubs ready to send to them and long with this info for any co-Borrowers along with Social security date of birth and currant address in order to run the credit report.   Once they have all this info it may take 2-7 days to generate a pre approval letter or a list of other questions you will need to answer to complete the approval process. 
Scott can always refer you to a loan agent.  Once you know how much you can afford call Scott Harrison Realtor to find out which communities have housing in that price range in your target area  510-388-4536 and make an appointment to look at homes. 
If money is tight consider to scale down your want list to a need list so that more homes will be in the list of candidates to fill your list of homes to look at.  Only 10 to 15 % of first time home buyers find they can afford the total dream home for their first purchase and getting your foot in the door to a starter home is what most folks do and step up from there as does their income increases. 
Talk to your Real estate agent, review the Buyer Broker Agreement and discuss services offered under it, let them know what you need Bedrooms, Baths, Garage, location, amenities so they can target homes that are more likely to meet your needs. 

Not yet 100% committed ?  Just Looking?               
Review your financial income and use the 1/3rd rule.  Take the gross income for all borrowers divide by three and that is roughly what you can afford monthly.  Locate a mortgage calculator and plug that number into the payment section put the going interest rate in and plug in the 30 year for the term to give you a loan amount.  Next pull your credit report.  Look for errors and areas where you can improve your score.  Get advise on what to do if you need to correct or improve the score.  Do not just do things you think (like closing not-used accounts or pay everything off) will help your score it may do the opposite. 
Search on line for homes in communities that you would like to check out.  Do not go looking for the best deal on web sites that are not major players at this point.  Many sites have distressed or out dated properties that will no longer be available and waste your time.   Somme sites will have additional neighborhood, demographics and walking scores to help you get an idea of how close amenities and transportation is in relation to the home and you should not have to create an account to get this information on line.
Still not ready to meet with a Realtor or Loan agent?   Get some education check up on what the market has done since last year watch ScottGHarrison.Homestead.com video and you will know why it is a great time to buy  If you do not set up a meeting an agent or lender you will find one by accident you don't know.

Scott Harrison has been a full time Realtor since 1987 serving Alameda and Contra Costa County.  I can work other counties but I will not know it like the back of my hand.   My cell 510-388-4536 is the best way to take a step towards home ownership. Call me or the agent of your choice to review the Buyer Broker Agreement and discuss services offered under it,

California Bay Area Homes and Real Estate For Sale
Step By Step Plan how to buy a Home.  
By Scott Harrison Realtor for over 30 Years         

Who is Scott Harrison? Review his real estate biography and real estate career's.  My Blog
Marketing San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Castro Valley, Oakland Real estate
         Scott Harrison Real estate agent since 1987

I specialize in Homes for Sale   in
 San Leandro  
San Lorenzo 
Castro Valley  
Hayward Ca.
Dublin Ca
San Ramon 
Union City 

What is is like working with Scott