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Typically, spring and summer mark the peak seasons in residential real estate. Many families seize the opportunity presented by the favorable weather and their children’s summer break to embark on their house hunting journey. However, it’s worth noting that in most regions, spring is synonymous with higher housing prices due to increased demand. Consequently, the market becomes saturated with buyers, intensifying the competition.

Here are some strategic steps you can take to gain an edge over other buyers:

1. Engage Early with Real Estate Agents: If you’re considering working with a real estate agent, it’s wise to start the process early. Take the time to interview three to four agents and also reach out to their references. Once you’ve made your selection, communicate your preferences clearly and comprehensively. Being specific and detailed about your requirements will streamline the search process.

2. Obtain Pre-Approval for Your Loan: Getting your loan pre-approved ahead of time serves multiple purposes. It not only reduces your workload by eliminating one task but also provides you with a clear understanding of your borrowing capacity. This knowledge prevents you from wasting time considering properties beyond your financial reach. Additionally, submitting an offer with a pre-approved loan signals to sellers that you’re a serious contender.

3. Determine Your Down Payment Capability: Assessing how much you can afford for a down payment is crucial. According to NAR, first-time buyers typically contribute around 6 percent towards the down payment, with a notable portion sourced from gifts. If this isn’t an option for you, explore loan programs that accept lower down payments, ranging from 5 to 3 percent. Additionally, be prepared for closing costs, which typically range from 2 to 7 percent of the property’s cost.

4. Stay Available for Your Agent’s Notifications: In a competitive market, timing is crucial. Be prepared to act swiftly when your realtor identifies a promising property that aligns with your criteria. Once you’ve assessed its potential and determined it’s a sound investment, promptly submit an offer.

5. Consider the Potential of Properties: While some aspects of a property are immutable, such as its location and basic layout, others can be altered to suit your preferences. Don’t dismiss a house outright due to superficial factors like paint color or carpet design. Visualize the space with your desired furnishings and décor to gauge its true potential.

6. Navigate Seller’s Markets Strategically: In a seller’s market, seek guidance from your real estate agent regarding offer amounts. If competition is fierce, consider offering above the listing price to enhance your chances. Avoid making demands for extended closing dates or additional concessions, such as carpet allowances, which could weaken your position.

7. Initiate Planning for Home Insurance: It’s never too early to start considering your insurance needs. Begin by verifying the accuracy of your credit report, as it significantly influences insurance coverage and premiums. Obtain a loss history report, such as a CLUE report from ChoicePoint or an A-PLUS report from Insurance Services Office, to assess any prior insurance claims. Maintaining a positive insurance history, particularly if you’ve previously held renter’s insurance, can enhance your prospects when applying for coverage for your new home.