The Greater Boston real estate dynamics have changed over the past few years from a strong "sellers market" to a market that is much more on equal footing market between buyer and sellers. In some areas, it has changed further to a "buyer's market".
As an exclusive buyer agent and broker / owner of Buyer Agents of Boston, the first step that every one of my clients takes is to get a pre-approval letter from a recognized bank.
When a buyer takes the step of making an offer on a property, I want them to feel confident that they are going to be able to afford to live in the property taking into consideration all of the customary costs that are associated with living in a property such as monthly principal / interest / tax payments, insurance, water / sewer charges, utilities, condo fees, and a contingency for repairs / special assessments. Sometimes, in the excitement of finding a property that a buyer likes, they forget to look beyond the monthly principal/ interest / tax estimate that the bank had originally given them to see the real cost of living in the home.
A good bank will help buyers look at these costs in relationship to various price points that they may be considering - for example how would numbers change if the price were $325K vs. $350K.
A solid pre-approval letter can also make the seller feel more confident in accepting an offer or choosing one offer over another in a bidding war (and yes, they still happen!).