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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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10. Determine the real value of the property. Buyers sometimes focus on how large an offer it will take to "get" the home, and lose site of what it's actually worth. But before you make an offer, sit down and determine, based on tax records, which can often be found online, comparables and the other data, just how much is the property actually worth? Then analyze the relationship between the actual value of similar houses and their selling prices. Often there's a pattern, and that can help you too, says Phipps. In addition, knowing the home's real value serves as a good touchstone to keep you grounded during negotiations.

11. Research the sellers. Are they motivated? Do they have to move by a certain date? While your offer should be determined by how much the house is worth, "There's nothing wrong with doing some intelligence on the seller and using that to your advantage," says Phipps. Your best source: the agent or the sellers themselves. If the listing agent or the sellers are at home when you view the property try to engage them in small talk. Ask them where they're going and why. "It's amazing how many sellers and agents volunteer a lot," says Phipps. A buyer's agent can also help in that area too, says Tyson." Your agent should do as much inquiring as possible on the sellers and their situation," says Tyson. While you do have to get a handle on why they're selling, "If you lowball someone, they're not going to think you're serious," he says.

12. Look at the real numbers. Was it for sale by owner? Have the sellers used other agents? And how long has it really been on the market?  The current listing may show that the home has only been on the market two weeks. But it may not show that it's been on the market before -- and recently. Some agents will pull a property off the MLS, and then put it back on the market to reset the clock,  says Phipps.  A buyer's agent can look at the listing records and determine just how long, in total, these owners have been trying to sell that home. And that can make a big difference in the offer you make.

13. Leave room for a second offer. Many sellers will assume that if you knock $20,000 off the price the first time around, you're looking for a counteroffer that will reduce the asking price by $10,000, says Phipps. But it's a fine line to walk. Offer too little and they won't believe you're a serious buyer; too high and you leave little room to negotiate.

-- Posted: March 8, 2007
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