First you should get yourself pre approved for a mortgage. This will let you know how much house you can afford. Don't waste yours and the realtor's time by finding the house you fell in love with just to find out that you don't qualify for that house.Second, you should find a good realtor. Make sure your realtor is a good listener. Let your realtor know exactly what you need in a house, the neighborhood you want to live in and your price range. If your realtor is like a car salesman that will show you what they want to sell instead of what you can afford, find another realtor.Third, Once you found the house of your choice and put an offer on it, you need to have the house inspected. Choose your inspector wisely. Don't go with the cheap priced ones. Never buy a house without a good inspection. You could be buying a money pit. The price of an inspection is minimum compared to the financial burden of major repairs. A good inspector will inform you of the major problems before you purchase. Armed with this knowledge, you can ask the seller to correct the major issues. If they won't make repairs you can either go ahead with the purchase and fix the problems yourself or back out of the contract. Be sure your real estate contract has a clause that states, this purchase is contingent on a home inspection. Happy house hunting.
The key word here is "Inspections". There are many home inspection companies that are more like "Lookers". The Lookers are usually the inexpensive inspection. These Lookers will spend about 1 to 1 1/2 hours inspecting a 2500 sq ft house. They don't tell you much more than what you already know about the house. You paid for nothing other than hearing what you hoped to hear, that there are no major problems. A more experienced inspector will take more than twice as long to inspect a house. If in your area you are getting an average price around $350 to $400 for an inspection then you get a quote for $250 for the same house then you can assume that this inspector is not doing as thorough job and the other guys. It kind of makes you wonder what they are not inspecting. You should qualify the inspector you want to hire. How many years have they been doing inspections? Are they Certified? Are they licensed, if their state requires it? Their Background? How long do your inspections take? How many inspection do you do in a day? How many inspections have you done? and so forth.My advice is to go with the higher priced inspector. This is not the place to save money and shame on the realtors that shop for their clients inspector by finding the cheapest inspector just to save their client money and hopefully the cheap inspector will not find anything that would kill the deal for them. You only get one shot at an inspection on your house. If you go with the cheap guy, you will most likely be dissatisfied. By then your deadline is past and you just have to live with your decision and the house with all it's overlooked problems. You get what you pay for.
Caroline's post is good. However, if the selling agent/bank can't give you the reason for "cash only" it would be wise to have the house professinally inspected. Then you will know what all the issue are not just what the seller tells you. There maybe more than meets the eye.
You should take the advice of the realtors. As a home inspector, I deal with builders like this and sometimes they have something to hide. From my professional view point, I would also get the house inspected. Just because it is newly built does not mean it is free of defects. You would be amazed at the things I have found in new builds.