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Often, first-time homebuyers are so intimidated at the prospect of what they’re about to take on, they forget the unique position that they’re in. Even in the midst of the excitement and anticipation of owning your very own home, it’s important to maintain a clear head and a strong sense of what you’d like to get out of the deal. Remember: This is a giant investment—the biggest that most people will ever make—and the sellers are just as eager for the deal to close. Here are seven tips to help the process end in triumph.

Shop Around for Agents

A good relationship with your realtor can make or break the home-buying process. Remember, the way they present your offer can be critical to success, so be sure to hire a professional who will work his or her best for you.

Resist the Urge to Contact the Seller Directly

While it might seem strange to meet the person whose home you’re buying on the day you close on the property, it’s far more normal than it sounds. Let the real estate agent work out all the finer points instead—that’s their job.

Gauge the Pricing Situation

Before making an offer, look into variables such as how long the house was on the market, whether the price increased or decreased during that time, or if there have been any improvements made since the initial listing.

Don’t Hesitate

Respond to counteroffers as quickly as possible to avoid the possibility of a third or fourth buyer entering the scene and driving up the price.

Compare Listings in Advance

Look up several similarly-priced homes in the region, and make notes on how they compare. Ask the real estate agent for advice if the property you’re eyeing seems disproportionately expensive or inexpensive.

Foster a Strong Relationship with Area Builders and Tradesmen

This is most important if you’re buying a newly built home, but having a good carpenter or electrician on speed-dial will benefit any good homeowner.

Be Certain of What You Can Afford

If possible, ask the loan officer to map out the monthly payment—including taxes and insurance—in advance. This will help to ward off sticker shock once that first mortgage bill appears.