1. Be Prepared
For Competition: When you find the best property for YOU, it's very likely that someone else wants it. The BEST Properties get A LOT of exposure and sell in a reasonably quick time frame in most markets. If you wait, you will lose out.
And Know Your Limit: Before you even begin, it's important that you have an idea of where you want to start with an offer & how high you are willing to go. At some point in the negotiation you may realize that you are going to have to go over your limit to get the property. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you are comfortable and the property is worth the money to you. The reason you want to know your limit ahead of time is so that you can make quick decisions. A buyer who hesitates during negotiations opens the door for other Buyers to come in and "steal the deal" because the Seller has shown some of their cards.
To Start Out At A Higher Price: If you know your market and you are working with a Professional Agent, it's likely that the first offer that you are wanting to make is well below the market value. Consider starting a little higher and negotiating less. Once you have the Seller in the negotiation they have a fear of losing the deal.
2. Hire A Watchdog
Establish A Partnership: The best deals come & go before most Buyer's ever see them. Your agent is your Watchdog and they are constantly searching for the new properties that will work. Since they know the market so well, they will often find properties that are not even for sale yet that fit your criteria. This will give you a MAJOR advantage over your competition.
Open Up On Your Goals: In order for your Watchdog to be productive they have to know your goals. Open up on what you are trying to accomplish and the results will show up sooner.
3. Do Your Homework
What Does The Seller Need/What Do They Want? This doesn't mean find out how much they want and pay them their price. It simply means you can negotiate a better deal and keep the competition at bay if you can create your offer in a way that it meets some of the Seller's goals. Finding out what the Seller's time gram for moving is or would they consider selling some personal property, are ways that you can add "value" to your offer without spending more money.
What Will Shut Them Down: In addition to what they are wanting, it's equally important to know what will turn them off. Things like closing costs, home warranties, low ball offers, etc. could possibly SHUT DOWN a Seller during negotiations. Find out if a previous Buyer's mistakes can give you an advantage. Ger a preview of what the Seller has dealt with in the past and use that information to you make the deal work!