All right, recruits! Fall in and listen up! When it comes to the crucial skill of negotiation, you newcomers to the homebuying process are in no shape to buy a house. Look at you — your minds are flabby and your wills are weak. That kind of cluelessness will cost you dough — potentially a lot of it — when you finally sign on the dotted line.

But we’re gonna change that. Now drop and give me your misconceptions, so our real-estate drill instructors can whip you into shape. (Bing: What exactly are closing costs?)

1. The negotiation misconception: Let’s just jump right in and start looking at homes
Drill sergeant says:
Patience, new recruit! “Nine-tenths of negotiation is preparation,” says Gary Eldred, author of “The 106 Common Mistakes Homebuyers Make (and How to Avoid Them).” A negotiation “is really about information. You gather as much information as you can” before you start the homebuying process, Eldred says.

What kind of info? What homes sold for — and the asking price, too — in the neighborhood that interests you is a great place to start. Other info: the value of features such as fireplaces and views, and info about neighborhood schools and amenities.

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You should quiz yourself as well: Before you do anything, write down a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers in a home, and your comfortable spending limit, writes Joseph Eamon Cummins, author of “Not One Dollar More: How to Save $3,000 to $30,000 Buying Your Next Home.”

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Do all of this before you even meet a real-estate agent, Cummins advises. One of homebuyers’ biggest mistakes is that “(t)hey went to talk with their friendly real-estate agent much too early — and much too openly for their own good,” Cummins writes.

2. The negotiation misconception:  Your real-estate agent is your buddy, so tell her what you can spend.
Drill sergeant says:
Never forget that your agent is ultimately there to sell homes, Cummins says. When you finally do meet with one, don’t tip your hand: “Never divulge your upper spending limit. My advice is that you should not reveal your true comfortable spending limit, either,” he writes. “You’ll have to give some indication of the price range that interests you. My recommendation is that that figure should be 5% to 10% below your comfortable spending limit, adding that you might be able to increase the figure slightly for an [exceptional] home.”

3. The negotiation misperception: When you see a good home, express your interest.
Drill sergeant says:
Oh, newbie — when will you learn? “Don’t show them how you feel about it when you walk through the house,” says Peter Vekselman, a real-estate mentor. Emotion will tip off the seller or seller’s agent that you’re excited. That doesn’t mean you have to denigrate homes, says author Eldred; in fact, sharply criticizing homes can hurt your chances if the seller takes offense. Simply put, “Never be rude, but never be effusive,” he says.

How do you keep from showing your hand when you find a home that intrigues you and you want to ask a lot of questions? Cummins advises asking the same five questions of any home you look at: What’s the asking price? What’s the owner’s reason for selling? How soon does the seller wish to close? How long have the owners lived here? What repairs have been done to the place?

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4. The negotiation misconception: A home is a home; it doesn’t matter who’s selling.
Drill sergeant says:
Who’s selling a home, and their situation, can matter enormously in a negotiation. Are the owners getting divorced and do they need money fast? Has the owner just died and do her children want to dispose of the family home quickly?  Once you’ve identified a home you like, try to learn as much as possible about the owner: Talk to neighbors and ask politely about the owner. Eldred, a runner, says he likes to jog around the neighborhood and talk with people who live nearby to pick up info.

Another negotiating tip: If you’re somewhat confident of your abilities, deal directly with the seller’s agent, instead of going through a buyer’s agent, Eldred says. “One of the advantages of dealing with a seller’s agent is that a seller’s agent often discloses more” than maybe he or she should, he says. That additional information can help you negotiate a lower price.