You have finally found the house of your dreams and put in a call to the listing agent to find out more about this real estate listing. He or she will be more than happy to give you a glowing report of all the details. But proceed with caution; there may be a few things that are being hidden. Be aware that:

The listing agent is working for the seller rather than you, the buyer. His or her job is to get that property sold and for the most money possible. If you let on that you have $300,000 to spend, but only want to pay $250,000 so that you can take a cruise and buy a few furnishings, he will let the seller know this. If you have $300,000 to spend, that's what they want you to fork over.

It is a good idea to check with the neighbors in order to find out how many of them own their homes, how long they've lived there, whether they find it to be a supportive and safe community, how they like their neighborhood, and if there are any wild stories associated with the house you're interested in. You can learn a lot by interviewing the neighbors.

The listing agent may act like he or she knows everything about the house, but this is not the case. Ask to see repair and maintenance records, check with zoning yourself to see if you can really add on that garage you'd like, and get a termite and home inspection.

Speaking of home inspections, it is a wise idea to hire your own home inspector. Many realtors refer a couple of inspectors that they often do business with. This tends to be a bit of a conflict of interest, as the inspector wants repeat business from the agent and may gloss over a few essential details that you should know. A realtor is very knowledgeable, but they are not a lawyer. Having an attorney look over the real estate contract is money well spent.

A listing agent may have you look at the house during the most sedate and peaceful time of day. You may see a quaint house in a quiet neighborhood mid-day but if you check early in the morning or later in the evening, you may find that it is a thoroughfare for rush hour commuters.

So remember, while the listing agent may be a wonderful person, it is his or her job to sell that property, at all costs. Be sure to use your intuition and business savvy to make sure that it is the right one for you.

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