Do: Look for a home in the best neighborhood that you can afford. You don't want to find out later that the renovations you have planned will make your home the most expensive one on the street. It makes resale difficult plus your neighbors will be jealous:).
Don't: Overspend on the price of the home. Leave yourself some wiggle room for renovations and furniture, even if they are planned for the future. If your are maxed out with house payments it doesn't matter how much potential the house has - your stuck with it the way it is. Maria Killam just wrote a great post about this here.
Do: Work with an experienced Realtor who knows the market in your area like the back of her hand and can help you negotiate the best possible deal.
Don't: Get emotionally attached to a home until you are sure the numbers fit your budget. Try to be practical first. Then start arranging furniture in your head.
Do:Make a plan now. Even if you won't be making any changes before you move in to your new home, thinking it completely through now will save you so much heartbreak later. Put together a "real" budget that includes actual bids before you close the deal.
Do: Watch out for things that will suck your money and leave you nothing for fun things like a great looking front door. You should have an experienced General Contractor go through the project with you before you buy. A good one will foresee problems and expenses that might save you from making a big mistake.
Don't: Assume that a good floor plan is everything. I loved my home's floor plan and basically kept it the same - But it didn't matter because I replaced every single wall in the house (in order to accommodate new electrical, plumbing, and drywall). In the end the floor plan could have been a mess and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference.
Do: Consult an Interior Designer about space planning and prioritizing. A good one will be able to see how a space should flow and how to maximize the homes potential when you renovate.
Do: Contact me if you are looking for a home in the Salt Lake Valley. I work in partnership with my Realtor Mother and General Contractor Father-in-law. We would love to help you with the design, purchase, sell, staging, building or renovation of your home.