Finding the right house to buy is rarely easy. Negotiating the right price and terms can be even harder. The best deals are made between buyers and sellers who are motivated. Commitment is critical.

You can waste a lot of time and energy with a seller who’s not motivated to sell at market value. Imagine this scenario: You decide to make an offer on a house you love. To make sure it’s accepted, you offer the asking price. You expect the seller to embrace you with open arms. But, he doesn’t. In fact, he’s disappointed because he really wants to sell for quite a bit more than he’s asking.

Last year, sellers obtained multiple offers and high selling prices–the result of years of healthy home-price appreciation. This year is different. In most areas prices aren’t dropping. But they aren’t rising at nearly last year’s pace. Unfortunately, some sellers are still pricing their homes for last year’s market.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: How can you keep from wasting your time on an unrealistic seller? Find out why the sellers are selling. Motivated sellers are prepared to sell at market value, whatever that might be. They are sellers who have a pressing need to sell, as opposed to sellers who merely want to sell if the conditions are right.

Sellers who have been transferred or who have already bought another home are usually motivated. So are homeowners who have experienced a change of life that requires the property be sold, such as a divorce or death in the family.

However, beware if the seller is selling because he’d like to move, but he’s in no hurry. Or, he’ll sell only if he can get a certain price. Another less-than-motivated seller is one who’ll sell if he can find the right house to buy. You could wait for forever for the seller to find his dream house. If there’s no urgency to sell, the seller isn’t motivated. You’re looking for a seller who will sell, not one who may sell.

The list price can be an indicator of the seller’s motivation. If the house has been listed for several months without a price reduction, this could indicate a less-than-motivated seller, depending on the marketplace.

Find out the average length of time it takes listings to sell in the area. A listing that has been on the market longer than average without a price reduction is a tip-off that the seller might be unrealistic. If there’s no pressing need for the sellers to sell then they’ll be less likely to negotiate if they receive an offer for less than they want.

If you’re interested in a listing that has been on the market for some time without a price reduction, find out why it hasn’t sold. Has the seller turned down reasonable offers? If so, keep looking.

Motivated sellers usually prepare their homes for sale before putting them on the market. A well-staged house is a good sign. Another positive indicator is a listing that’s easy for agents to show. A listing must be shown in order to be sold. If the seller insists on restricted showings, the seller is making it difficult for agents to do their job. He is impeding the sale.

Is the seller ready to listen to offers within a reasonable time after they’re written? Or does the seller only want to make the time to hear an offer if the price is right?

THE CLOSING: Negotiation is back in vogue. If the seller’s not flexible, find one who is.

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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