The first thing you need to do when seriously searching for a home to purchase is get a letter (often called a pre-approval) from a reputable lender that states that you have purchasing power. It is a good faith estimate of what that lender will give you to purchase a home. It is easy to get (usually less than a few minutes) and all offers require that you submit this pre-approval. In addition, it gives you an idea of what market range to look in.
I have a wonderful lender who stays on top of your transaction, and I have personally used him on my personal property. His name is Brian Costello and is a lender at Mortgage Master, the second largest non-bank lender in the country. Brian has lent over $600,000,000 throughout his career.
His knowledge about the mortgage industry's current trends, and the Chicagoland market in particular, allow Brian to help his clients find the home of their dreams and the mortgage they can afford. He works nights and weekends, unlike most of the real estate industry, and stays on top of deals, especially with all the new lending and banking laws.
He can help you get a VA, FHA, conventional, Jumbo, or ARM loan. He is down to earth and such an easy going guy that he often makes friends with his clients. The people I know who have worked with him have become raving fans of his- I am no exception.
Go to his website and explore your options at http://www.mortgagemaster.com/bcostello/
FHA Loan info
VA Loan info
Veteran's Loan Fact sheet
USDA Loan info
Fixed Rate Mortgage
Student Loan debt and how it can impact your mortgage
Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM loan)