I would suggest going to your local bank for a pre-approval. This is a simple process and they will give you their estimate of the amount of loan you would qualify for. This is not a guarantee, and you are not entering into an agreement with the bank. This is just to give you an idea how how much house you can afford. Remember that just because the bank says they'll give you a loan for $170,000 that doesn't mean you can afford it. You'll need to figure out what the full monthly payment will be (including principle and interest, taxes, insurance, and pmi if your downpayment is less than 20%). Don't go by the mortgage calculators online. They're great for knowing what the principal and interest will be, but then you have to add all the other stuff. The principal and interest for my home is only $367/month, but with pmi, insurance, and taxes, my monthly payment is $566.87/month. Figure out what you can afford before you fall in love with a house that's too much.
When you're ready to get your actual loan (first find a home and make an offer), then you will want to call around to different lenders and compare interest rates. Do you know what type of loan you're looking for? For an FHA loan, you'll need at least 3.5% down payment and for more conventional loans 20% down payment is recommended. In addition, make sure you have the money for closing costs (2.5-3%) of the purchase price.
purchased my first home last year