I bought a house about a month and a half ago. It's been a pretty interesting experience, and some people have been asking me for recommendations, so here's what I did:
In October I'd done a bit of looking around on Zillow to get an idea of what was around. I'd already had a price range in mind (around $175-200K), an idea of where I wanted to be (in north Austin, not too far from work, and particularly not where I'd need to take a toll road to get to work), and a rough idea of what I wanted in terms of features (single story, two-car garage, gas hookups for range/dryer, etc).
I also went to get pre-approved for a mortgage. I didn't really do a lot of shopping around here, I just went to talk to Matt Schepper at University Federal Credit Union, where I've been a member since college. My credit is pretty much nonexistent (never had a credit card, never had an auto loan), so I did have to bring in quite a bit of paperwork to show that I had quite a bit of capital available, but other than that it was pretty smooth.
Eventually you do hit a point where just browsing Zillow isn't quite enough, and you need to get a realtor, so in November, I got a recommendation for one from @schlaeton. Jeff Kress is very familiar with the north Austin/Cedar Park area, and I would recommend him to anyone else.
I sent Jeff my requirements and a list of the houses on Zillow that I had on my mind, he provided a few ideas of his own and put me on some MLS system to notify me via e-mail with new house listings, and then on Tuesday and Friday on Thanksgiving week we actually went and looked at houses. The speed at which I could do a go/no-go on each house was a bit surprising to Jeff, but I'd already had a good idea of what I wanted, and, being single, I didn't have to argue my choices with anyone but myself.
So, of the dozen or so houses in total, I very quickly narrowed it down to three, then to one. We put an offer on it, and after a couple rounds of negotiation it got accepted.
For inspection I took @kcipp's recommendation of Precision Inspection. Ronnie White was the inspector; he seemed a little grumpy, but at the conclusion he gave me a rundown of everything and how difficult some of those things are to fix, and was pretty thorough in his report.
For insurance, I tried working with a State Farm agent at my realtor's suggestion, but the prices I was quoted from them came out to be about double what I was being quoted for through Progressive, with whom I have my auto insurance, so I went with them instead.
Also, as part of the sale, the sellers pay for a year of a home warranty with a vendor of my choice. I went with American Home Shield, since that's what a couple people I asked were using (@fearthecute and @yardkgnome if I remember correctly). I haven't had to call them up at all, so right now I'm pretty ambivalent about them.
I closed the first week of January, which means that I don't have to deal with all the tax implications quite yet. I've already made a couple IKEA trips, because I barely had any furniture. I still need to get living room couches at some point. And a washer. And probably some way to mow the backyard. And get started on the dozen or so different house projects I have in mind already...