Develop an idea of what you're looking for in a home, especially price range, location, type of home, interior square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, view preferences, etc.
Choose a lender or two and arrange to get a solid loan approval letter to include with your eventual offer. Additionally, get your financial papers in order and be prepared to document your sources of funds for the purchase.
Carefully choose a real estate agent (hopefully Mike!) who specializes in San Clemente, and have him or her direct the MLS to send you automatic email alerts when property matching your criteria comes onto the market. These emails will come to you directly from the MLS -- not the agent. These automatic emails will alert you within minutes of a property being listed and before 90% of the local real estate brokers even know the property's on the market - even your own agent!
Visit properties that appeal to you, and ask your agent to show you inside the best of them.
After a few days or weeks of this valuable experience, you will be able to quickly recognize a bargain when you see it.
That's when you want to pounce -- before the main part of the market even sees the property.
You want to aggressively negotiate by making an offer that's easy to say "yes" to. This is done by including your source of funds and loan approval documentation along with your offer. You want to create a sense of urgency by intelligently setting a deadline for the offer, and giving a reason for it.
Justify your offer price in writing.
Sellers want their precious home to go to people they like. Help them like you by explaining in writing WHY your offer price makes sense in the current environment. Your agent can help draft a friendly letter.
This is how to justify your offer price - and help them like you.
This is the right way to submit a low offer.
This is the art and science of buying a home.