Since this question has been gaining some traction recently, I thought I would chip in. I previously reported that we had had our offer accepted on a house in Worcester. Then we had the inspection, and found that it was about 30 years into a 25-year roof, had some kind of "roll-your-own" septic system and four separate electrical systems (each with their own box, and some connected both to the main service drop and one of the other breaker boxes). That's when the sellers decided that not only were they not going to perform any repairs (which they had already stated) but they weren't going to reduce the price or give any money back at closing to fix any problems. So we adjusted our offer accordingly, they rejected it, and we all got on with our lives. A few months later we found an even nicer house in the Upper Dublin SD. It was on a smaller lot, but it backs onto some township-owned greenspace, and was overall in better condition. We had the usual back-and-forth with the sellers (we offered lower than their asking, they split the difference and we said OK, then asked for some money back to repair a leaking shower in one of the bathrooms). We just got all the papers signed yesterday, and we close on Dec 4th. Good think we're not eligible for the first-time home-buyer's credit, or we'd have had an issue!
A lot of the credit for this goes to our realtor. She gave us a heads-up when the property was first listed (it was classified as "active/no showings", which apparently means it won't show up on regular searches). It was available for showings on a Saturday at noon, and she got us in there by 12:30. Made our offer on Monday, had it accepted by Tuesday, inspection was Thursday, and getting estimates and haggling took another week. All along, our realtor did what I always through realtors were *supposed* to do -- took our side, negotiated in our best interest, and advised us as to what we should expect and how much to ask for and how much to accept. Sadly, this hasn't been the experience we've had with some other realtors we've worked with.
So, in summary I guess I would say that even if this is a "buyer's market", it's key to be very pro-active and get a good buyer's agent. Don't just wait for some automated script to pull together a list of properties that fit some profile: get on-line and search things our for yourself. Send your realtor the MLS #s of properties you find. Get 'em early and be ready to move. More than once we delayed making an offer on a place we liked because we were waiting to see some other houses on our list, and by the time we'd seen them the place we liked was gone. Obviously, the house we're buying was technically on the market for two weeks, but realistically it was more like three days (I think they stopped showing it after the sellers verbally accepted our offer).