1) Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage First.
Its fun to go out and look at homes but knowing exactly what you can afford is always the first step. Plus, you never know really how much you can afford until you speak with a broker/lender. You might be surprised! Pre-approval also helps you move quickly on a property. A pre-approval letter is a must-have when making an official offer. No agent will accept your offer without one (unless you are a cash buyer).
2) Know What you Want and What are Deal Breakers.
Making a list of must-haves is important but try not to be too stringent. Keep an open mind when searching and see what compromises you could live with. Remodeling a home because it doesn't have a large master bath is easier than compromising on a lesser school district. This makes the process of elimination easier when searching for properties and helps you keep the "eye on the prize".
3) Focus on Neighborhood is also key
In LA there are many different neighborhoods to consider. Things such as commute times, school districts, proximity to activities plus your own requirements is essential to consider. The more narrow you can make your search ie. Valley vs Brentwood or Westside vs. WestLake the more effective you will be at finding a home faster and with less stress. Talk to people who live in the area to get the real lowdown.
4) Use Google Street View
Type in an address to get a better idea of location of a property before scheduling a showing in Google then click on street view or directly on the location on the map. This should pull up the street view. Many listings don't mention the parking lot or the freeway across the street. Google street view is great for this!
5) Use A Realtor
You may think its easier to find a property on your own but actually most buyers find a home faster and for a better price with a Realtor. The realtor can access off-market listings, has experience negotiating the price and terms and will guide you through the large amount of paperwork and each step of the buying process. Best part? Their service is free to buyers (the seller pays the buyer's agent commission).