(StatePoint) Are you on a serious hunt for a new home? Whether it’s your first time as a real estate buyer or you’ve done this many times before, you may experience a learning curve. After all, the market is forever in-flux, and experts advise that, these days, there are some distinctive challenges involved in becoming a homeowner.

“If you want to snag your dream home in a seller’s market, then you’d better be on your game,” says Grant Simmons, who drives the consumer marketing strategy for Homes.com, a leading online real estate resources site, with close to three million real estate listings for sale or for rent.

Simmons is offering expert tips to give buyers a leg up in today’s competitive marketplace.

• Know what you want: Make a list of the features you desire in your next home, and then separate them into wants and needs. Having your priorities in order will help you better determine whether a house truly suits your needs and where you’re willing to compromise.

• Use your imagination: Buying a live-in ready home offers convenience, but you can potentially save thousands of dollars on the front end on an ugly or tired home with great bones or personality. Choose a real estate agent with vision who can help you find the diamond in the rough in your desired location. Remember, there can be large return on small, affordable updates.

• Know the deal-breakers: In a seller’s market, you may feel pressured to sign on the dotted line as soon as you find that home you really like. Before committing to a mortgage, do your due diligence. A shoddy roof, bad plumbing, foundation issues, outdated wiring and water damage are costly headaches you may not want to take on in a new home.

• Do smart research: The Internet is your friend. So rather than cast a wide net, conduct smart searches. Sites like Homes.com make real estate searches easier by connecting buyers with timely and accurate listing information, as well as the listing agent. The site also features comprehensive, valuable data on the quality of life in local neighborhoods, including market reports, commute calculators, school scores and cost-of-living analyses. For more information, as well as such free resources as downloadable house-hunting checklists, tips and mortgage calculators, visit www.Homes.com.

• Get serious: Busy real estate agents with a tight schedule prioritize serious prospective buyers. Be first on their list. Before you discover your dream home, get your financial ducks in a row, because when competition is fierce, you can’t afford to wait for mortgage approval.

It may be a seller’s market, but with smart research, foresight and planning, you can make a wise purchase.

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