I run into this all the time:
"I'm just looking"
"I'm just thinking about it"
"I won't know until I find the right property"
The list of exuses reasons go on. The fact of the matter is you owe it to yourself to make the decision either you are serious about buying or you aren't. If you aren't, that's fine. But if you are serious about buying, then you need to get SERIOUS! Rates are low, inventory is high, and many sellers are willing to negotiate. But what's holding you up?
Real estate can be a huge undertaking, espcially since the majority of people don't do it on a regular basis. Here's a few steps to get you started BEFORE you start looking.
1) Get pre-approved. I can't stress this enough. I've had to listen to many buyers rant about the fact that they didn't get the home they really wanted because they were too late. I was even blamed for it some of the time. If you get pre-approved, it gets you prepared for when you do find the right home. It also leads to the second step.
2) Know your limits. Also know the limits of the market. Be realistic about what you can afford and also be realistic about what the market has. You wont find a mansion on a cottage budget, but you can find good homes.
3) Interview agents. This is a step people take late in the game instead of early on. It's counter productive on two parts. First, an NAR study has shown that people who work with an agent spend 1 1/2 weeks looking for a home compared to people who spend 6 weeks on the internet. Agents know the market, know what's available, and the good ones even know about properties that have yet to come on the market. The second part is the fact that you want to find someone with whom you trust and can work with. Doing this early takes stress off.
There are other things that should be done, but if you start with these three you will be on the right track. Having an agent to help you will also make it easier and more enjoyable.