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In a buyer’s market, it’s not unusual for desperate home sellers to offer more than just low prices to attract purchasers. Some will pledge to pay off a buyer’s debts, make monthly mortgage payments, throw in an exotic cruise or even offer a car with the house. When buyers find themselves negotiating in a seller’s market, they may want to consider similar strategies.

Money isn’t everything. Although it may be hard to believe when you find yourself in a bidding war with cash-rich competitors, for some sellers, money is only part of the bottom line.

Put a human face on the contract. To stand out in a competing situation, you might consider sending a hand-written letter to the sellers, telling them why their house is your first choice. Including a picture of your family, perhaps with pets, might also help sway the seller favorably.

Describe the home’s future. If a home is in good shape or has a quaint felling about it, you may want to let the sellers know about your intention to preserve the house just as it is.

One buyer we heard of won the bidding war when, in a chance meeting with the seller, it was discovered they had a common love for gardening. The cottage had been refurbished and the owners had spent hundreds of hours setting up flower gardens around it. Even though the buyer’s bid was $5,000 less than the competitor’s, the sellers decided to accept the contract.

Include other valuable items in the contract. Find out what the sellers like. Do they travel or frequent expensive restaurants, wine festivals or fashion boutiques? Grab the check book and head to the gift certificate counter! A strong contract with a hefty gift certificate attached could bring a smile to the seller’s face and his signature on the dotted line.

Do without. Buyers who are willing to pass on certain contingencies or conveyances can get an edge, even on higher bidders. One family sold to buyers who offered less money, but didn’t want the brand-new, high-quality washer/dryer set in the basement. The sellers really liked the appliances and were willing to sell for less money to keep them.

Consider the contract terms. If you are willing to rent back to the seller, for instance, or allow the contract to be contingent on the seller finding a home of choice, this could be the clincher in a competing situation.

If you’ve decided it’s time to buy your first home, you may be a little overwhelmed about all the things you need to do and decide on. Here’s a handy list of steps you should take on the way to your new home.

1. Select a professional real estate agent
2. Investigate mortgage programs
3. Contact a reputable lender
4. Get pre-approved for a loan
5. Develop a “needs and wants” list for your house
6. Research housing inventory with your agent
7. Tour homes
8. Pare down your choices using your “needs and wants” list
9. Write a purchase offer for the home with your agent
10. Negotiate the contract with the sellers
11. Sign the bottom line!
12. Schedule a home inspection
13. Schedule a pest inspection
14. Schedule a radon test (if necessary)
15. Attend the home inspection (wearing old clothes!)
16. Negotiate defects found on home inspection
17. Prepare for the move
18. Hire movers; or
19. Get lots of boxes and invite all your friends to help
20. Complete final walk-through of the home
21. Attend settlement
22. Move in and celebrate!

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Tom Gilliam- RE/MAX Classic

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