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The New York City real estate market isn’t for the faint of heart; it takes a savvy and well-prepared house hunter to succeed. Here are four house hunting tips that’ll help you find the right place at the right price.

1. Use a Reputable Broker

Finding your next home is a high-stakes endeavor, so don’t try to go at it alone — find a broker. The role of brokers has evolved over the years, with their duties now mostly focused on closing the deal instead of finding available properties.

One option is to use an exclusive buyers broker to help you sift through properties, estimate a properties fair market value and negotiate on your behalf. Unlike listing agents, exclusive buyer’s agents work for you only; their goal is to help you find the right place, not sell a property. Buyers agents have inroads with sellers’ brokers, buildings and off-market properties.

2. Watch for Listings That Re-Appear on the Market

Your best shot at finding a bargain in New York City is looking through the listings that show up on the market after a hiatus. Sellers are typically more flexible at that stage. You can also focus on what brokers call “stale listings,” or listings that have been on the market for some time. You’ll have less competition from other buyers with these.

3. Be Prepared

Sellers don’t just look for qualified buyers; they also want buyers who are ready to act immediately. Before you start hunting for a house, obtain a copy of your credit report. If you’re dealing with a broker who’s helping you buy a home, make sure you have a pre-approval letter from your bank, and recent financial statements readily available.

A pre-approval offer is based on your income and credit score and is usually valid for 60 to 90 days. A pre-approval will give you a good idea of what you can afford, expedite the purchasing process, and give you a leg up on the competition when buying a home. A credit score of at least 720 will get you the best mortgage rates and a debt-to-income ratio of 36 is ideal.

4. Be Realistic in Your Approach

A healthy dose of realism will go a long way in the New York City real estate market. You can have an ideal home in mind, but stay open to compromise. A nearly perfect place that falls within your budget is still very much a victory in a tight market. And remember to think long term — consider what you’ll need from a place in a few years, not just now.

Finding a place in one of the most cutthroat real estate markets in the world can be grueling, but your chances of finding a great one will increase exponentially if you do basic things like find a broker, prepare adequately, watch the right listings, and compromise. House hunting the smart way will get you that much closer to your perfect NYC home.

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