Don't rely on the real-estate agent to tell you what to do. Even the most wonderful agent isn't exactly motivated to get you the cheapest price. Remember, unless your agent is specifically a buyer's broker or buyer's agent, she will typically be paid a commission—based on a percentage of the sale price—out of the seller's pocket. If an agent helps you to negotiate a lower price, her commission will be lower, too.
So, before you begin shopping, scour the Internet and the local paper's real-estate section. Pay attention to homes in your range; don't track million-dollar manses if you'll be shopping for a $200,000 condo. For at least six weeks, keep a record of how long sold homes were on the market, and whether they sold above or below the asking price and by how much.
Our December issue features Oprah's Favorite Things—as well as your chance to win them all! You'll also find our easy holiday declutter plan, Dr. Oz's guide to sleeping better (starting tonight) and the ultimate holiday menu.