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Explore the Top Spots to Live 2019 by region:

1. Financing equals flexibility.

Get your mortgage financing completely lined up, so all that’s left is to identify a property, says Winchester realtor Judy Sousa. “That puts you in a better position as a buyer,” she says, compared with someone who needs an extra six weeks or more to finalize their loan. And if a seller needs more time, Sousa adds, stay flexible enough to accommodate them if possible.

2. Be ready to pounce.

You can expect plenty of competition this spring, says Newton realtor Marie Presti. “If you see something you like, I wouldn’t hesitate,” she says. A quick offer might help dodge a bidding war. Likewise, Boston realtor John Neale says many listings in the South End are still priced to sell in the first open house weekend, so buyers need to have their checkbooks ready. “If you’re just starting out, it’s pretty unnerving,” he says. “That can be stressful for first-time buyers — for anybody, really.”

3. Patience pays off.

Competing with downsizers, upgrading homeowners, and cash buyers means you may lose a few bidding wars in the busy spring market. But those early letdowns can provide a valuable (if heartbreaking) crash course in home buying, Presti says. “If you’re patient and persistent, you can get something in July when everyone goes on vacation.”

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4. Game the rates.

While interest rates on a 30-year mortgage have dropped after hitting a seven-year high in November, many observers expect them to rise slightly as the year goes on. It could be worth paying a little extra for a home now to lock in a lower rate for years to come.

5. Stay open-minded.

Presti says many families try to buy into the very best school districts in the state, when the fact is, dozens of towns and cities have school systems that would be the envy of other areas. “Our schools in Massachusetts are ranked best in the country,” she says. Presti points to Woburn, Stoneham, Quincy, Swampscott, Braintree, Dedham, Wakefield, and Burlington — all of which are within 15 miles of downtown Boston, have well-rated schools, and a median sale price under $600,000.

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Explore the Top Spots to Live 2019 by region:

Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.