I have never bought a house in the USA so others here will have more specific and germane concepts re surveys, what to walk away from, etc.
I think you need to look at 20 houses all in your price range/ area. By that time you will *know* what you want, it will be easy to go and buy. Keep a file (preferrably with pictures, they all start to blur after a while) of the the houses and why you turned them down (pluses and minuses).
Generally make sure you have a 20% down payment.
Houses *cost* - - the additional costs are significant. Make sure you have c. $10k spare cash (ie borrow a little too much possibly) when you move in. Wait til you pay your first property tax bill
It's all about location, more than anything else. Usually the worst house on a street has a reason why it's the worst that probably cannot be fixed (lot too small to permit extension etc.). But you definitely want to be in the cheaper houses on a better street rather than a better house on a cheaper street-- below the median house for that street.
Location is about local amenities, time to work, schools. Schools is the one that waxes and wanes in importance, but even if you don't have kids living in a good schools area has positives (downside: loud teenagers. Upside: good parents who work hard and want a quiet life). Biggest issue is that a good school pushes up housing prices *a lot*.
The commuting situation, for most of us, has the biggest single impact on quality of life.
Usually better to buy that smaller house on the street that in a few years you can renovate/ extend.
Beware Homeowner associations (HOAs). Endless horror stories about small groups dominating and setting unreasonable rules. There are good ones, but you need to know the score on that.