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Real Estate Guide 2007
Take action: do's & dont's
With the real estate market in transition the game has changed. We examine ways to adjust.
Take action: do's and don'ts
20 steps to get the best deal on a home
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6. Hire a buyer's agent. A good real estate agent can help you focus your search and avoid the pricing pitfalls. Ideally, you want "someone patient, someone focused on the neighborhood you're interested in," says Tyson. Talk to several agents. "Have they taken advanced classes or received a designation?" says Fitzgerald. "Is it somebody that you feel comfortable with, somebody who's going to listen to your needs? Is what you're looking for what they're showing you?" Don't fall victim to the trap that you can save money by not using an agent. The seller, after all is paying that agent in most cases, and even if there's only half a commission involved, don't you think the seller wants to save that same amount you have your eye on?

7. Don't trash the house. It's become almost routine to point out all the things you don't like about a house to shake the seller's confidence and try and bring down the price. This can be a crucial mistake. First, it makes them angry. Second, once you've insulted their house (and them), it's going to be tougher to get them to negotiate a good price. If you're at the stage where you're making an offer, but there are details you really can't live with, be tactful and kind, says Ron Phipps, broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. Instead of declaring that their 1950s kitchen is horrible, say "I understand the kitchen is original." Then follow with something along the lines of "obviously, competing houses have been updated and that would be a priority for me," says Phipps.

8. Study comparables. Do this before making a first offer. When you look at the comps (which should be within six months and ideally within three months), what's the relationship between the list price and the sales price? That's going to give you a good idea of just how much room you have to bargain. And just how much your first offer cuts from the asking price can vary with the town, neighborhood and price range. "In some areas of the state, people wouldn't be distraught," at an offer than came in 15 percent to 20 percent below the asking price, says Phipps. "In my area, the sellers would be offended and you wouldn't get a counter offer." And that's why it can pay to have a professional on your side. Especially in today's market, "you need a buyer's agent to explain the nuances of the market," he says.

9. Stay current. Keep up with the market while you're shopping. In the areas you like, watch the for-sale signs go up and come down. How long are homes staying on the market? Look at the listing for the asking prices. Comb the local paper to see what they actually bring when they're sold. What's the relationship between sales price, value and asking price? The trends you see can really help when it's time for you to make those offers.

-- Posted: March 8, 2007
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