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How to Land Your Dream Home in a Hot Market

Come prepared, do your research, and find the right agent

By Abigail Thorpe

For anyone looking to purchase a home in the current market, most people have discovered just how fast things move and how difficult it can be to land your dream home—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The market may be moving fast with relatively low inventory, but there are still opportunities to find a property or home that fits your needs, as long as you do your homework and come prepared.

Start a relationship with a local agent.

In this market, having a real estate professional working for you is key. Find someone who you feel comfortable with and start a relationship before you even start looking for property. “No matter what price point you're looking in, the market is magnificently competitive, and you'll want to have an ally and advocate working on your behalf,” explains Raniel Diaz of Our Town CDA, Professional Realty Services Idaho. Get referrals from friends and family, and do your research to find the right Realtor for you. They will be key in not only helping guide you through the process but in networking in their local area to find you a good fit that might not even be on the market.

Come prepared.

It’s no secret the market is competitive. Sellers won’t wait for you. “Be prepared to move quickly toward negotiations and, if possible, be physically onsite to view property,” advises Jackie Suarez, associate broker at Century 21, Riverstone in Sandpoint, Idaho. Determine your financial capabilities, and if you’re not able to purchase with cash, get pre-qualified. “While it is great and fun to go out looking at homes, it is no fun to fall in love with one only to find out it is just out of your range,” adds C.J. Tuma, owner/broker at Coldwell Banker North Woods Realty in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “Get pre-qualified first, then the fun of starting to look can happen.”

Also, be prepared to increase your offer if need be. “Cash offers tend to take priority in this market, and ‘escalation clauses’ are common. Sellers need to know that they are negotiating with well-qualified buyers,” explains Suarez.

Do your research.

Research the area to determine your target locations. Local geography, employment opportunities, services, schools, etc. will all play a role in your decision of where to buy. “Your best decisions can be made when good judgement balances your emotions, and knowledge is key,” says Suarez.

Once you’re pre-qualified, talk with your agent about your parameters, discover what your payments will look like with taxes and insurance, and make sure it’s a comfortable fit. It’s better to know from the beginning what your limitations are.

Accommodate the needs of the seller.

Sellers want to know a buyer isn’t going to waste their time. “The less perceived risk a seller sees associated with your offer the better,” explains Diaz. Your best chance of landing the property you want is to know what the seller is looking for. “Learn what will be the best-case scenario for the seller. If you can accommodate their timelines and needs, consider structuring your offer to be the best fit possible,” advises Suarez.

Determine your needs.

Know your needs versus your wants before you go into the buying process—and set limitations. What is absolutely necessary? And what can you be flexible on? This will help you move quickly when the time comes and lets you know when you should keep looking. But make sure your list of “non-negotiables” isn’t too long, or it could hurt your search. “In this market, plan to learn, be humble and flex when possible,” says Diaz.

Get your credit in order.

Set yourself up for success when it comes to getting pre-qualified. Make sure your debt-to-income ratio is healthy, and talk to your lender about your options. They can even help guide you on what to pay off to help improve your credit and buying power. If you’re in the market for a home, don’t take on any new large debts like a car payment or maxing out a credit card, advises Tuma, as this could end up hurting your approval odds in the end and jeopardize your home search.

Have a plan.

Lastly, be prepared. Have a plan in place before you start making big moves. “If you're preparing to sell to buy your next home, try to make sure you have a solid plan before that sign goes in your yard,” recommends Diaz. Network with friends and family to let them know you’re looking to buy, and don’t rush headlong into the process without getting your things in order and setting a timeline, so you’re ready when the moment comes to make that offer.

The ins and outs of the real estate market can be difficult, especially in a market like the current one. But with a trusted agent at your side and the right planning, it is more than possible to find a new home you love. Remember, at the end of the day, sellers are human beings after all, and your unique story matters. “Some of my clients' beautiful success stories (also known by us as ‘Real Estate Miracles’) have been hinged on their ability to present their story in a compelling way that opened the door to their perfect home,” encourages Diaz.

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