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The best way to start the process is to talk to the right people first. Start with finding a good realtor, or a good lender. If you have friends or co-workers that have recently bought they are a usually a good resource. If you don't know anyone who can provide a good referral, there are tons of agents on Zillow who would be willing to help you, but the quality can vary greatly depending on who you pick. Make sure that whoever you choose is competent enough to answer all of your questions, and is someone who you can trust.Realtors usually have a good lender contact and would be happy to refer you to a lender who they are confident in. Whatever you do, DON'T go to LendingTree.com or any site that sends your loan application to multiple lenders, this can hurt your credit enough to be an issue because of the multiple times your credit is pulled.Most people our age tend not to think about the long term wealth building factor of finding the right home. In general if a client is unsure of the lifestyle they want (condo/townhouse), I usually recommend looking at starter townhouses with good floorplans. In our area these are easier to resell and since you aren't shelling out for a condo fee monthly more of your money goes towards building equity and bolstering your financial future. That being said, a condo in a highly desirable area might be better for you if you work in DC or just can't stand a commute.You can get a decent townhouse in Springfield or along route 1 in Alexandria for under 280k that might a bit of work. In general I think the Huntington area of Alexandria is a good buy right now, you can get a duplex or a nice newer condo unit in the Midtown building in that range as well. It's very convenient to the last stop on the Yellow Line Metro for access to DC. Considering hiking out to Sterling or Centreville? You can get a very nice townhouse out there for under 320k that's move in ready. Inventory has been low over the holidays this year and you'll have better selections available after the playoffs and the Superbowl.Most agents won't say this but depending on how single you are, you'll probably also want to consider how your new home would appeal to your potential significant other both with location and the actual home. If you're already in a committed relationship this is pretty easy to define, but sometimes bachelors loose sight of the "impress the date" factor and settle for a lower monthly payment, or look for a garage instead of a nice layout.(And if you like my advice and want to work with me, I'm a pretty cool, smart, and a fun agent to work with. Just had to throw it in there.)
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For Sale: $3,950
For Sale: $529,900
For Sale: $799,900