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Congrats! You finished law school, threw a baller wedding and had a cute kid. Now the hard part: buying a home. Whether it’s the fluctuating real estate market, or the seller’s fluctuating mood, there are a million and one variables that could raise your blood pressure at any point in the process. So if you want that dream home (or any home), you’re going to need some serious bidding strategies to edge past the competition. Here, six tips you need to know before you make an offer. Good luck.

RELATED: 7 Things Nobody Tells You About Buying a Home

couple standing in the backyard of a house for sale
avierarnau/getty images

Don’t Settle for Your Agent
Your real estate agent is your first and best line of defense when it comes to bidding. They should protect your interests, nudge you when it’s time to compromise or stand your ground and, ultimately, help you close the deal. So shop around for an agent until you find one who has your back. The easiest way to tell from the beginning? Keep an eye out for the most obvious red flag: sending you properties that don’t fit what you’re looking for. If they don’t listen to you from the get-go, they probably won’t listen to you at that most crucial moment.

Get to Know the Seller
Once you fall in love with a property, it’s time to do a little recon and figure out why the seller’s saying “adios.” If a young family is hightailing it out of the neighborhood due to a poor school system, use this during negotiations to lower the price. On the flip side, in a competitive market, a little human connection goes a long way. A retired couple who lived in the home for 40 years and saw the neighbhorhood completely gentrify might want to know their home will be passed down to good hands. If there’s an emotional connection, make an emotional plea by writing a love letter.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Writing a Home Offer Letter That Will Get You Your Dream House

woman taking a photo of a house on the market she wants to buy
Steve Debenport/Getty Images

Work Your Market Like a Boss
Even if you have a great agent and you’ve won the hearts of your sellers, you have the last and final word on what you end up offering. So know your market—whether it’s a buyer’s, seller’s or balanced one—so you can be more confident about the decisions you make. Don’t take your uncle’s word for it, do the research yourself to see what similar properties went for in recent months.

Embrace Your Dream Home’s Faults
Of course we all want to find our dream house. But it can also be to your wallet’s benefit to lean into a property’s downsides. For example, the cigarette smoke smell that’s worked its way into the wallpaper over the past 20 years could actually be a good thing when it comes to negotiating: stipulate that the seller must get rid of the stench before you move in—saving you money on de-smoking the place later—or lower your offer significantly, saving you money on the purchase cost now. The gist: Anything questionable can be used to leverage a better deal.

family running out the door of their brand new house to play
JohnnyGreig/Getty Images

Have Your Max Price Set from the Get-Go
Remember on Seinfeld when Elaine gets carried away in an auction bidding war and winds up spending $20,000 on a set of golf clubs? Don’t be an Elaine. Work with your BFF the mortgage broker to get pre-approved for a loan before you even start your search. Calculate the highest price you can afford to pay (and make sure that includes closing fees, transfer taxes, inspections, etc.) to still have enough to live on (toilet paper, Champagne, cat toys, etc.). This way you’ll be ready when a bidding war gets heated, and can negotiate around your parameters.

Know When to Ditch the Contingencies
A contingency is an addendum to a contract with the seller that protects you in case something wildly unexpected happens. Buyer’s love ’em; sellers are so-so on ’em. For example, if the purchase of your new home depends on the funds you’d receive from the sale of your current home, you can toss a contingency into the contract. Then, if your current home doesn’t sell, you walk away from purchasing the new one without losing money. In a buyer’s market, you’ve got time to add contingencies designed to save you money down the road. In a seller’s market, contingencies will make your offer look weaker.

RELATED: 9 Red Flags to Watch Out for When Buying a New Home

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