Faced with a reduced inventory of available homes and an improving housing market, buyers eager to make a move are approaching homeowners who don't even have a for-sale sign in the yard.
According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, 20 percent of the respondents say they sold their homes as a result of being contacted by a prospective buyer, versus 15 percent who said the same in 2011.
"Inventory is down to 1999 levels," says Bob Moulton, president of Americana Mortgage in Manhasset, N.Y., "so some people are resorting to old-fashioned techniques like door-knocking in order to buy a home."
Buyers -- particularly first-time buyers -- are also trying to get a jump on rising home prices, he adds. Clients are coming into his office with their paperwork in order and want to be pre-qualified for a mortgage before they begin looking at homes. "In the old days, people used to sign the contract for a home and then see if they could get a mortgage," he says. "These days, the word on the street is that money is cheap, but hard to get." He's referring to the fact that although mortgage rates have remained low, lenders are still holding borrowers to strict standards.
Reuters reports that in some areas of the country, the competition is heating up for the most desirable properties. In San Francisco, for example, homes that go on the market are getting multiple offers within days. In parts of Orange County, Calif., inventory is down by more than half what it was three years ago.
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