I love house-hunting. Whenever a friend tells me they are looking for a house, I tend to flood them with information and house listings. I'm a bit of a nut that way. I love going with my friends to look at houses. When I was looking for my house, we looked for a year and a half, and saw over 200 houses. Since then, I've probably seen around 400.
The most important thing is to fall in love with the neighborhood, and then find a house that you love in that neighborhood.
Mainly you want to look for a neighborhood that has a lot of garages in the back, that way there won't be any cars on the street where kids can dash in-between and get run over.
The number one feature in a house is a good kitchen. It needs to be roomy with a lot of light. You will spend most of the time in the kitchen, and when guests come over, they always congregate in the kitchen. Having a lovely kitchen is a great reselling point, and it makes a woman happy about a house. I've known women to get severely depressed over the state of the kitchen - it is truly the most important room in the house. Even if you are not much of a cook! :) Another room that is a great bonus (especially with kids) is a utility room. Having an actual room and not a closet makes laundry so much easier (especially when you are doing a load every day/ two days because of wet clothes, sheets, etc.) A laundry room with a sink is a super plus.
A third nice bonus feature is a sunroom for kids - it allows kids to get sunlight on cold or rainy days. This is not necessary, but it is nice. Also really nice is a great master bathroom that can be a real retreat for a stressed out mother - think bubble baths in a jacuzzi or garden tub. :) Also, jacuzzis make for great birth control later on - if a guy soaks 30 minutes in a really hot bath once a week, it is very hard to get pregnant. :)
Having a garage in the back is extremely helpful - the driveway is long enough that a kid can easily ride a tricycle, nobody can look into your garage, and the street is empty of cars. This was the most important thing on my checklist. Our driveway is also gated, which I find to be very nice as people can't wander into our yard and kids can't wander out.
I would avoid houses with converter garages - garages that have become living rooms or bedrooms. They are very hard to resell. Most people want a garage they can park their expensive cars in, or store boxes of their stuff.
Also, subdivisions that only have 3 ways to get in and out are awesome. You never have to worry about thorough-traffic or trucks or anything like that. Only people that belong to the neighborhood and their visitors will be the only ones driving through. Except househunters of course! ;)
2 story houses with kids can be doable, but I would avoid them as I know most kids have fallen down the stairs at least once, if not once a year, which is super scary for a mom.
Also, I hate carrying a baby or toddler up stairs, its a bit nervewracking.
Having at least 2 baths is a must, and having a half bath for guests is extremely nice, especially as the other bathroom will be filled with kid stuff.
The more houses you look at, the more you will get a feel for a good quality house vs. a house that is a box. A good quality house will have far less problems than a quickly constructed low quality house.
If you can avoid a "starter home" I would. You never know how long you are going to be in the house, it could be 5 years, but it could also be 20 or the rest of your life. If I had to live in my house for the rest of my life, I would be perfectly ok with that. I really like my house and my neighborhood, and I do not believe that the neighborhood will deteriorate at all.
Schools of course are also important. I tell all my friends just don't even put kids into a public school. They learn terrible character habits, become smart-alecky, and they have to sit still all day practicing taking the TAKs test at age 8, which I believe is torture for kids. Currently, the best and one of the cheapest private schools is Temple Christian which is on Randol Mill and 820. school blog link
Basically, to start, get a list of houses together - I recommend www.erealty.com because it has great search parameters (you can search by the name of the subdivision or by zip code, plus a lot more great features) - about 20 to 25, take a Saturday and drive to these houses. Most are usually empty so you can look through the windows and in the back yard. Then drive around the neighborhood and see if you like it or does it feel like gangs and drug people live there? Or college kids up all night playing loud music? Find a peaceful neighborhood that is kid-friendly, walking-friendly, and well-established, and you have found yourself a winner! Then pick out the five or six houses that you liked best and want to see more of, and call a real estate agent to set up an appointment and then you can see all of them at once. Five/six houses in the same area/neighborhood usually takes about 2 hours. Don't forget your digital camera or camcorder to help you remember all the fine details.
update: I've been thinking. If you live in the metroplex, and want some help with finding a house, email me the zip codes and your price range, and I will compile a list of houses that are good quality. This usually takes me about an hour. I will also send you my email on house information, with websites and househunting sites that are very helpful. The cost of this service will be $20, payable by paypal or google checkout. Click the "contact me" button on the top left of this page. I just love helping people find their dream home. :)