The housing market can change month to month—whether it's a "buyer's market" or a "seller's market" can depend on the time of year, where you live and the style of home for which you're looking. When it comes to navigating a market that is more predisposed to sellers, there are small steps you can take to stay competitive and secure your dream home.
Here are five tips for buying a home in a seller's market.
When it's a seller's market, the most desirable houses can sell rather quickly. Desirable doesn't necessarily mean "best" or "fanciest" as much as "budget-friendly." Houses in the first-time homebuyer range, for example, might be among the first to be sold. That's another reason why having your financing in order before you start shopping for properties is so important. Make sure you secure a preapproval from your participating lender of choice—it will save some disappointment when a more prepared buyer purchases a home in which you were interested.
In a buyer's market, your ability to negotiate is probably greater—you might be able to ask for fixes and upgrades to the property to sweeten the deal for yourself, and the seller may be in the position to make them happen, especially if the property has been on the market for a while. In a seller's market, you don't always have this luxury. To improve your chances of winning a bidding war for a home you really want, be reasonable about your demands—skip aesthetic fixes that you can do yourself, and concentrate on the foundational, structural repairs that would require a contractor or repair service to fix.
When it comes to negotiating a purchase price, your instinct might be to reserve your truly best offer until the last stage of the bidding process. However, in a seller's market, if you find a home you're particularly interested in—and one that perhaps other buyers are likely to bid on—don't be afraid to submit your best offer. (Now, this isn't an excuse to submit an offer for more than your budget is truly comfortable paying, but a best offer can help to fend off low-ball offers from other buyers.)
Real Estate Agent
Homebuying doesn't always happen on your schedule—it can often happen during your work day. In that regard, you need a real estate agent who is dedicated to fast responses. Your agent should be experienced and be ready to represent you even when you're not available in person. Keep the lines of communication open with your agent so you're able to exchange information even when you're not able to talk face to face—extend the option to text, email or video chat, in addition to standard phone calls. When a quick decision needs to be made, it pays to have a knowledgeable agent.
Depending on the seller's living situation, if the property in question is currently owner-occupied, being accommodating about the move-in date can go a long way. Offer to close and move in on the seller's timeline—make it clear that you're graciously letting them identify the dates. This gesture could make the owners more likely to work with you, whatever your offer, if they're under a strict moving schedule.