Don’t underestimate the time it takes to buy a home. Even if you work with a top-notch real estate agent, there are myriad details that need to be attended to if you want to make sure that you buy the right house at the right price.

While on the subject of working with an agent, don’t even consider working with someone you don’t trust. Mutual respect and good rapport are necessary elements of a good working relationship with a real estate agent. If the chemistry isn’t there, find an agent with whom you feel comfortable.

You’ll have the best results if you choose your team of real estate professionals carefully–not just your agent, but your mortgage broker or lender, home inspector, attorney and surveyor (in areas where you need them), homeowner’s insurance agent, and title and closing officer. Ask your real estate agent or friends who recently bought or sold a home for recommendations.

You should try to work with the best people in the business. This doesn’t mean that you need to work with the person who does the most business. Ideally, you want to establish working relationships with people who are reliable, professional, experienced, motivated and trustworthy.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Even though you have a team of professionals to rely on for advice and assistance, never forget that you are the decision-maker. If you can afford to buy a home, you’re no doubt busy generating the income to make it possible. Delegating tasks to your team of real estate professionals can ease your workload considerably. But, the decisions about important issues like what you buy, the price you pay, the home inspector you hire, and the kind of financing you use, should be yours.

Educating yourself about the market in the area(s) where you want to buy is one of the most productive uses of your time. There’s nothing like pounding the pavement first hand to give you a feeling of confidence about the neighborhood in which you’ll live and the current market value of homes in that area. The real estate market is constantly changing. Comparable sale statistics from six months ago may no longer reflect current market values.

Don’t be afraid to make an offer in competition. Last year, if you ended up bidding against other buyers, you were almost assured of paying over the asking price. In today’s market, multiple offers don’t necessarily send the price higher. Set your limit and take a stab. There’s more to an offer than price. If the other buyer’s offer is contingent on the sale of their home and your offer isn’t, you could be the winner even if your price isn’t the highest.

Most bad home-buying stories have one thing in common: the buyers didn’t complete their due-diligence inspections. It might have seemed like a good idea to buy without the benefit of inspections in the red-hot market of yesterday. How could you lose with home prices appreciating at a double-digit pace?

Some buyers did lose. Now that the home-buying environment has changed, inspections are absolutely essential, as are further inspections, if they’re indicated.

Try to avoid buying a home for the wrong reasons. It’s tempting to want to buy because that’s what all your friends are doing. But, if your personal or professional life is unsettled, it’s best to wait until you can make a long-term commitment.

THE CLOSING: The rate of home-price appreciation is likely to wane after many years of robust increases. So, if you have to sell soon after buying, you could lose money.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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