Things to keep in mind to help your realtor help you:

1.  If a person is serious about buying a home, it helps be pre-qualified or pre-approved. That way when the home you want comes along, you are ready to roll financially.

2.  Since it is very rare to find the perfect home - settling for something with 85% of what you are looking for can be a good idea - particularly in a seller's market with limited inventory.

3.  Don't be afraid to search for homes on your own & then contact your realtor.  You know best what you are looking for.  And don't be afraid to tell in detail what you looking for.  Get very specific about your 'must haves' vs things that would merely be nice.  Both you & your realtor ideally should search for your dream home together.  It's a meeting of the minds.

4.  Your realtor doesn't know everything about houses.  Every home is different. Your realtor is more like the glue & go-finder for the answers you have and will help to connect you to reputable home inspectors, lenders, and various home experts as the need arises.

5.  Most realtors out there work hard, drive, work with documents, meet people, and undergo extensive continuing education.  Most are not crooked or out to make a quick buck, but rather are held to high standards and have the desire to help get you from where you are to where you want to be.  The best of us want to help you get into your most realistically ideal home and limit post purchase dissonance.  

6.  A good realtor will be eager to correct their mistakes when they make them.  And due to the heavy paperwork, scheduling, etc...mistakes are inevitable.  It's why realtors carry errors and omissions insurance.

7.  The advantages of selling your home through a realtor are that they instantly put your home in front of the eyes of all other realtors & their buyers in your local area.  Realtors also help to bring qualified buyers to look at your home.  But your home will sell itself or not when the buyers come based on a variety of factors such as price, location, & condition.

The advantage to the buyer is a good realtor can help to clue you in to 'bad apple' homes, point out defects or praise qualities that an amateur buyer might not be looking for, and they generally have more first hand knowledge of what's available in a given market area where buyers are searching for homes...and for what price.  But a realtor cannot deliver what doesn't exist.

8.  When selling a home you market it not only to the buyers who are searching for homes, but also to their realtors.  And furthermore, the home must also generally meet the appraisal price to successfully sell for what a seller hopes to obtain for it.

9.  When a seller is considering pricing a home, they should not be thinking about how much they have into the home, or the money they would like to get out of a home necessarily.  We might like to get a $1,000,000 from a $10,000 shack.  That doesn't mean someone will be willing to pay that amount for it.  It's more realistic to think about what comparable homes are selling for and price accordingly.  Your realtor can do comparative market analysis to help.

10.  When thinking about homes here are some typically more attractive features:
Most of these things can be changed and some cannot.
** a metal roof or architectural shingles
** granite or corian counter-tops
** hardwood floors, carpet, tile, etc...
** a level or gradually sloping lot or a lot with brow scenic or mountain view
** waterfront property, privacy by way of trees
** u-shaped driveways
** 2+ car garages attached
** 3+ bedrooms  (especially with a bonus room)  
** Master bedroom on the main floor
** a split floor plan,
** separate dining room
** fruit trees, fencing for pets or horses, and extra acreage 

11.  There are a lot of good people out there to help protect you from buying a bad home. Especially realtors, home inspectors, appraisers, termite inspectors, and many others will help. Additionally it is nearly always wise to get a home warranty to..."Cover Your Assets"  both for the seller to the offer  (makes the sale more attractive) or for a buyer to purchase.

Anyway the list below gives a few things to watch out for:

  • Homes sold "as-is"  often a red flag for hidden problems.
  • Homes that have sat on the market for long periods of time.  There's often a reason.
  • Spots showing water intrusion on walls, ceilings, etc...
  • Old & worn out appliances -- especially HVAC units, water heaters, etc...
  • Signs or smells of mold, termites, or animals that have lived in the home...
  • Deck footings built straight into the ground vs having a cement pads or footings
  • A roof of unknown age, uneven floors, cracks in the walls or parking pad cracking
  • Things that are not built up to code - shows up in a home inspection
  • An unusually low price -- like your momma said, "There ain't no free lunch"
  • What are the conditions of things unseen?...septic tank, attic, crawl space, etc...
  • And...If you fall through the floor, etc... -- Houston, we have a problem!  

12.  Stay happy while house hunting!  It's one of the hottest games around.  And it's fun!