Buying a House in a Tight Market

The word has finally gotten out that we are in a tight market. There are not enough houses on the market for all of the people who would like to buy a house. Of the 712 houses that closed in Fairfax County in January, 221 of them (31% )were on the market 10 days or less. 356 (50%) were gone within 30 days on the market. While it’s true that the average market time is about 2 months, the most popular best-priced houses go much quicker than that. The number of listings on the market last month was down 36% from the same month last year. Buyers are being squeezed out.

So what do you do in this type of market? Here are some tips:

1. Be Fast. Once you have figured out what you can afford and what your are looking for in a house, act quickly when THAT house comes on the market. Don’t wait for competing offers to pile up for the seller of the house. This means signing up for alerts for the kind of house you are looking for and making time in your schedule to see them when a good one comes on.  It also means doing the things you need to do ahead of time to be ready to write an offer:  getting pre-approved, being familiar with the standard contract, knowing which contingencies are important to you, and knowing when you are willing to close on a property.

2. Be Flexible.  The more flexible you can be with the terms of your offer, the more flexible most sellers are with the price.  Can you bend your dates to what the seller needs?  Can you close quickly if the house is vacant and the seller is paying for an empty house?  Can you do your home inspection more quickly?  Make sure you take the time to figure out what the seller needs and to consider your ability to give that to the seller.

3. Look Off-Market.  Who is about to sell there house that hasn’t put it on the market yet?  If you or your agent can locate these houses, you’ll have a chance to be the only bidder on a house.  Many people would love to sell there house if they didn’t have to go through all of the hassle involved in putting it on the market.  Can you or your agent find these people?

4.  Don’t Overreact.  Be aware that the market favors sellers at this point, but keep your head:  get your inspections done and negotiate the best price you can.

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