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Casey Christie / The Californian

Frank St. Clair takes notes on a house he investigates for a possible investment on South F Street in Bakersfield.

Consumers can compete with seasoned investors in Bakersfield's current home market, local Realtors say. But it takes awareness, determination and the help of a good agent.

To start with, keep in close contact with your Realtor in case a new listing pops up, agent Jonathan Weinmann said.

"If (you're) not out there quick, somebody else is going to beat you," he said.

Realtor Darrell Sparks, team leader CEO at Keller Williams in Bakersfield, said it's also important for home shoppers to search within or below the price ranges they're qualified to buy in. Otherwise, they may set their hopes too high and try in vain to negotiate a lower price.

"This is not that kind of market," he said.

First-time homebuyers would be well-advised to do exactly the opposite, real estate broker Robin Ablin said: Offer $10,000 more than the asking price. Assuming no one else does the same, a high bid may prove a wise choice in time, he said.

"If I pay top dollar for my house today, it's not going to be an issue three or four or five years from now," he said. "It's going to cost more."

Another pitfall would be to insist that the seller make repairs to the property ahead of a closing. Realtor Sheeza Gordon said that's a sure way to turn the owner toward an offer from an investor, which may be less money but comes with fewer hassles.

"In this market, buyers need to understand: Don't ask for ... anything," she said.

If none of these work, it might be time to write a personal letter to the seller, Realtor Gary Belter said. Emphasize that it might be better for the whole neighborhood if an owner-occupant moves in rather than a renter brought in by an investor.

"A lot of people have pride of ownership in their home who want somebody there other than an investor," he said.

-- John Cox