If you are still paying rent, you owe it to yourself to get serious about owning a home!
Don't know where to start? First let me ask if you have saved up a little money for a down payment and closing cost. Closing cost is the money you need for getting a loan, it inlcudes fees to the bank, appraisal, survey, prepaids (they are called that because you are prepaying to get into the house and then you skip a mont if you prefer to start paying the mortgage in arrears). Prepaids are your 1st year Home Owners Insurance (after that the mortgage company pays it every year unless you have a large down payment at it is not requires for you to esacrow money for that), 2 months of escrow of insurance, Interim Interist until the closing date, a[[rpximately 4 months of taxes (in SC taxes are due at the end of the year for the current year) and it can be more if you are closer to the end of the year, Mortgage insurance premium. HOA Home Owners Association dues if there are any.
But the a good things for you is that Property Taxes and Interest are tax deductible. You will eventually own your home and have a minimal cost. Lets say your rent is currently $1,200 a month. That is not high in SC depends where you are and what you need in space and location, with garage, home or apartment. Example. Rent $1,200. Currently Interest is around 4.125% for a 30 year mortgage. Your credit score plays a role here as well and how much money you want to borrow. But $1,200 Principal and Interest will get you a house around $245,000. You need to add taxes, Insurance and Mortgage Insurance. If you like your total payment to be closer to $1,200. you can probably buy a house for no more than $175,000. and leave room for taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance. Just estimating, the lender is always the best source to let you know how much you qualify for to borrow. That is the best start if you like to know and get started. I never recommend that my clients to be "house poor". I like for them to have some money left to save for emergencies and fun.
It is always good to check with a lender to see what your credit score is and how much you can geet a pre-approval letter for. Local lenders are recommended as they will cause you no delay in the closing. They also know better about appraisers. It has been my experience that lenders you find on the Internet can cause closing delays. Having been a REALTOR and Broker Assocaite since 1993 I have a lot of experience with all kinds of situations, loans and price ranges.
It is always good to have a little cushion of funds in the bank. Emergencies will happen. It is good to have some extra payments saved up.
A Home Warranty can save you from unpleasant "surprises" that can happen. Mechanical failure is bound to happen. A good Home Warranty can help you out cover expensive repairs with a minor deductible. Home Owners Insurance may cover the roof if you have storm or hail wind damage, but there are many other things that are not covered, like if a garage door opener breaks, a stove stops working etc. Make sure you ask what is covered and get extra coverage for things that are not normally covered. Weather changes throughout the US.
It is good to have a good REALTOR on your side, a buyer's agent representing you even in a New Home Purchase. The On-site agent is not going to be at a walk-through and not at the closing. Your REALTOR will be or should be.