Touring prospective houses can feel like wandering through an infinite, imaginary desert: You're tired, you're cranky, and you're not sure if the experience is EVER. GOING. TO. END.
So when you've finally found "The One," it's an amazing feeling. You can already picture your first brunch in its adorable breakfast nook.
But wait. Before you summon the moving truck, your dream home's seller has to pick you, too. Luckily, the key to locking down your ideal abode doesn't always mean offering the most cash. Here are four ways to tip the odds in your favor.
#1 Negotiate with a Smile
Unlike most commercial real estate transactions, the buying and selling of a home is complicated by all kinds of emotions, explains Sara Benson of Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago. Often, how the seller feels about you can be more important than your money.
"People tend to do business with those they like and trust," she says.
One of Benson's favorite examples of this phenomenon occurred when one of her clients was second in line for a home. While the first-place bidders were negotiating their contract, they whipped out a long list of unreasonable demands for the seller.
"This infuriated the homeowner, who finally told them, 'My property isn't for sale to you at any price!'" Benson recalls. The seller ended up offering Benson's clients the house, even though their bid was $10,000 below that of the first buyers.
Lesson learned? "Don't nitpick over items that are insubstantial, like a torn window screen or a $50 valve on a hot water heater," says Benson. "This will anger a seller more than anything." And that, she says, could be a deal breaker.
#2 Get Personal
Bruce Ailion, an agent with RE/MAX in Woodstock, Ga., agrees that profit isn't always the seller's primary motivation. He recalls a recent deal in which he was representing an older couple selling their long-time family home.
"We had two offers: one from an investor paying cash, the second from financed first-time buyers."
Despite Ailion's recommendations, the sellers chose the first-time buyers, even though the cash offer was higher and would have been a much simpler transaction. Ultimately, what mattered most for Ailion's clients was to pass their beloved home on to a deserving young family.
#3 Figure Out the Seller's Unique Motivation
Understanding why the sellers have put their home on the market is yet another powerful tool a buyer can bring to the negotiating table, says Ailion.
"Some sellers want a quick sale; others need time to find a home. Some are focused on price; others on certainty," he says. "There are so many intangibles. It takes a deep understanding to make a good deal for everyone."
See what information you can glean about the seller -- from your agent or even from the seller's neighbors -- to arm yourself with as much information as possible.
"The more flexible a buyer can be on closing and possession, the more likely they'll be able to negotiate a lower price," agrees Benson. "They're giving the seller peace of mind and the comfort of not having to rush out."
Related: Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers
#4 Work With a Pro
It also helps to have a knowledgeable, well-respected pro on your side -- someone who understands market realities and who will work well with the seller's agent.
How do you find that seasoned pro with the sterling reputation? "Ask for referrals from your personal and professional network, and interview at least three different [agents] before you choose the one you feel most comfortable working with," advises Benson.
Residential real estate is a game of both head and heart. Smart buyers who employ both are the ones most likely to win the home of their dreams.
Related: 5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment
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