Unless you have had your head in the sand at Compo Beach, you already know that it is a "buyer's market" when it comes to home sales.

Reduced asking prices, coupled with historically low mortgage lending rates, have sparked an enthusiasm into Westport's residential market. A properly priced home in the right location is once again creating a frenzy and even bidding wars. Educated buyers should be prepared to put their best foot forward to ensure they will obtain an accepted offer from their bid.

Price

Clearly, price is one of the primary considerations when a seller is reviewing your offer. If you find yourself in a bidding war, consider offering the seller a premium of a set dollar amount above their highest offer.

Financing

Before you prepare an offer, it is important to meet with a mortgage lender. It doesn't matter to the seller if you speak with a mortgage broker or the lender directly, as long as you are prequalified. However, a "pre-qualification" will only take you so far. This shows that you can afford the property based on the information that you have given the lender. However, a "pre-approval" goes a few steps further. A pre-approval verifies your employment and your credit history. You can be cleared for a pre-determined maximum loan, allowing you to make a "mortgage contingency" free offer, which reduces the seller's risk greatly, in essence making your offer more appealing.

Good faith deposit

When a potential buyer offers a larger than the customary 1 percent earnest money deposit with an offer, it will certainly gain a seller's attention. It can demonstrate the buyer's motivation and their ability to accumulate funds quickly.

Contingencies

Minimizing contingencies and clauses that make it harder for the buyer to cancel the contract once inspections and financing is secured will go a long way to prove to a seller the buyer's desire to make the transaction continue smoothly. Certainly a first-time buyer or renter is extra appealing to a seller, so the sale of their current house does not complicate the timing or ability to close.

Build a relationship

Try connecting with the seller on some level. Of course price, terms and contingencies are always going to prevail, but if all else is comparable, a seller tends to like accepting an offer from people that they have met, and who they believe will take good care of their home.

Trust your seasoned Realtor to know the best way to position your offer. Whether you are planning to purchase your dream home or an investment property, knowledge, skill and your agent's expertise will help you facilitate making a sound offer that, when realistic, will lead to an accepted offer.

Mortgage wrap

Craig Ellinwood, a mortgage banker with Atlantic Home Loans in Westport, reports that mortgage rates as of Nov. 1 are as follows:

30-year fixed -- 4.250% (4.299% APR)

15-year fixed -- 3.625% (3.694% APR)

5/1 ARM -- 3.000% (3.165% APR)

Conforming/Jumbo to $708,750 (Fairfield County)

30-year fixed -- 4.375% (4.399% APR)

Jumbo: $750,000 to $1,500,000

30-year fixed -- 4.875% (4.905% APR)

15-year fixed -- 3.875% (3.944% APR)

5/1 ARM -- 3.375% (3.561% APR)

Linda Skolnick, a Realtor with Prudential Connecticut Real Estate in Westport, can be reached by calling 246-0088 or through her website, www.GoAskLinda.com