We hunted houses for 3 months, and in that time I very quickly put together the best research sites and developed psychological ploys to help us evaluate and negotiate for each house we were interested in. From several comments from the realtors, it appears the average buyer does not usually equip themselves in this way.
We, on the other hand, armed ourselves with the current market price of the house - (immediately lets you work out if the vendor has unrealistic expectations), land value - (to subtract from the asking price and work out if the house is over-priced or under-priced), how much the owners paid for it and when, (enabling us to calculate their monthly repayments and approximate age group).
Why other buyers don't do this is beyond me. I was able to talk several realtors down by over $100,000 just by knowing what the market was paying for that area, and how much of a hole the vendor was in.
Now fully streamlined, with pre-approved finance and research material covering every aspect, we soon realised that we'd rejected every house in the areas we liked, in the price range we found acceptable, and configuration that would suit us. That was pretty depressing and made us question how realistic we were being. But it's not as if we'd been unwilling to compromise. We'd almost made an offer on several houses, but their faults were just too large, too expensive to fix or too unforgivable to live with everyday.
Then, one weekend, we went shopping instead of house hunting. But we always carry a list of "maybes" and decided to drive-by several unappealing prospects on the way home. It was a steep area and we couldn't see much of one that might be of interest, so we drove around to a back street to see if we could get a look at its rear end.
By coincidence we came across a realtor who was pulling up at a driveway with no sign, and not on our list, to start an open house inspection. It was a fairly expensive part of the suburb but I immediately forgot about the other house, slammed on the brakes and invited ourselves in. I asked the price before entering, as I didn't want to waste our time looking through a million dollar house that we couldn't afford. I was shocked at the answer. Pleasantly shocked for a change. And the house was near-on perfect for us. It met almost every criteria we desired and could be easily modified to create the aspects that were missing. It was an exciting find and I couldn't be bothered keeping a poker-face. I smiled even wider when the realtor takes my enthusiasm for stupidity and asks us to sign a contract then and there. And if she thinks my positive reactions have anything to do with the way I negotiate, then she is going to be disappointed.
As it turned out, after I got home and did the research, the house was under-priced, and the vendor was in a hurry to get out. In the interest of fair play, good will and a balanced Karma we offered them the list price. I have NEVER done that before. Not even on a cheap computer monitor. I NEVER pay retail on principle. But it felt right and saved a lot of bad feeling and delays.
Our offer has now been accepted and the fun begins. The Agent is learning not to stick her nose into our business and is slightly upset that we don't require her input. So long as our inspectors and solicitor are satisfied we will be in our new house a day before Xmas.