A lot of great points from my fellow realtors. Kudos to all of you.
Money talks and sellers listen. A 5 percent down payment is not as impressive when buying a house as a 10 or 20 percent down payment. Another concern of sellers is that a winning buyer may get cold feet and default on the home purchase contract, stranding him without a sale.
If you can put as much money as possible into the earnest money deposit (a month earlier than the down payment) you communicate your intentions to follow through with your home buying offer. After all, if you withdrew your offer, you'd lose this deposit. Other competing offers cannot contend with such diligence.
When buying a home in a context of multiple offers, try to create a connection between yourself and the seller. Selling a home can be an emotional experience, and you can get on the seller's side by communicating your appreciation for their home.
Show concern for the seller's situation by relaxing on the buyer possession aspect. Offer a post-occupancy agreement and give the seller a few days to move without expecting anything in return. Keep your connection positive by not requesting personal items from the house.
Forgo inquiring about the antique chandelier in the foyer - if he wanted to sell it, you would know about it. Lessen the seller's burden by picking up the tab for some of the seller's costs such as escrow fees, transfer fees, and title policies. Encourage your agent to befriend the listing agent and discover which seller's special requests will "seal the deal." Then try to arrange to meet those needs.
If you carefully consider and apply these ideas, you will surely be a step ahead of the competition.