While a 20% down payment means you won't pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), you can buy a home with much less down. There are loan programs that require as little as 3% down. Are you a veteran, currently enlisted, or a spouse of an armed forces member? Then you may qualify for zero down!
Student and credit card debt are different "in the eyes of lenders." Even with considerable student debt, buying your first home is still possible.
You may be wary of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), but there's no need! Past mortgage troubles associated with this type of loan were more of an issue of too-lax qualifying standards and less about the loan program itself. ARM loans have low fixed interest rates for the first few years and are a good option if you plan on refinancing or selling within ten years.
Government-sponsored loans from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have numerous affordable lending options. Eligibility is more accessible than other loan programs and could be based on your income, your military status, and even your first-time homebuyer status!
Real estate agents aren't salespeople; they're your advocate. They know the housing market well, know all the right questions to ask to negotiate on your behalf, and make sure that you are delighted with your new home purchase.