Everyone's been saying Now's the time to buy, for quite a while, but for many who've been waiting on the sidelines, the autumn off-season of real estate may indeed be the right time to act.

Anybody who is trying to sell a house going into the winter months has to be flexible, and you should be able to get good deals, says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. With mortgage rates at record lows and favorable home prices, buyers should be active.

Here are some tips for buyers to help ensure a successful close:

  • Secure Employment: Buyers must have a stable job in order to feel comfortable about the purchase and to get approved for a mortgage.
  • Spotless Credit: Credit scores above 720 still get the best mortgage rates, as lending remains tight. Help buyers to correct any errors on their credit reports.
  • Build Cash: Let house hunters know that the days of no-down-payment loans are a relic of the past. Depending on the situation, they'll need to put down at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price.
  • Follow Uncle Sam: Though the first-time home buyer tax credit is set to expire November 30th, there's talk it may be extended into 2010. Buyers may still be able to take advantage of this opportunity, but pay attention to the news out of Washington to see if eligibility will be extended.
  • Be Ready to Bargain: Purchasers are in a position to ask for a lot more if a seller needs to move. If you think the floor needs to be replaced, ask for it. In my market, buyers still have a great deal of influence and sellers will do just about anything, assuming it is doable and legal, says NAR First Vice President Ron Phipps, a broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, Luke Mullins (10/14/09)