Before you go mortgage shopping, make sure you qualify for a conventional home loan. There are a variety of reasons why an FHA loan doesn't work out for everyone, and sometimes a conventional home loan is a much better bet financially. Here is how to check and see if you qualify.
Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. It is nearly impossible to get a home loan of any type in the U.S. while on a visa without putting at least 30% down.
Check your credit report before you begin. In order to qualify for a conventional home loan, you should have a minimum credit score of at least 620.
Take the extra time to pull your credit score up. The best rates are found in the 700+ bracket.
Shop around for first time buyer programs with local lenders. Even if you have owned a home before, you can still qualify for these programs if you have not owned a home in the past two years.
Get together a down payment. Most conventional loans will require a down payment or at least 10% but some first time home buyer programs will let you get away with only 5%. You'll usually need to pay 20% to avoid paying PMI.
Check your debt to income ratio. This is the amount of money that you make vs. the amount of money that you owe. Even if you are not currently paying on a debt, it gets factored into your debt to income ratio and lenders will take it into consideration (like student loans that are currently in deferral or forbearance).
Shop around with different lenders to get the best rates. Don't get discouraged if one lender turns you down. There are lenders everywhere with money to lend now that the housing market is starting to pick up. Keep trying!