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7 tips for finding a home when inventory is scarce

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The journey to homeownership is exciting, but there are many more buyers than homes for sale in today’s market, so that journey can take longer than you expect. The real estate market across the country is experiencing an inventory shortage, so if you’ve struggled to find a home, you’re not alone. Here are seven ways to stay the course, get creative and find a home before it even hits the market.

How to find a home when inventory is scarce

1. Work with a real estate agent to find off-market listings 

A real estate agent can help you find properties that are currently off the market but in talks to be listed soon. That’s because agents are well connected to the deals popping up around town, so in some cases, they’ll know about a property before it is even listed.

2. Expand your price range

If you’ve been on the hunt for a home for a while but haven’t had luck, you might need to revisit your budget. With demand driving up home prices, the price you had in mind when you set out to buy a home could need updating to reflect the current market. Of course, you shouldn’t stretch your budget if you can’t afford to pay more, but if you have the room, consider expanding your price range.

3. Look for expired and FSBO listings 

Sometimes a listing within the multiple listing service (MLS) expires due to a lack of interest within a particular timeline, but the homeowner might still be willing to sell for the right price. A real estate agent can look over expired listings and reach out to potential sellers to see if there’s an opportunity for you. Likewise, for sale by owner (FSBO) listings can be a great way to unearth a deal. Some FSBOs aren’t on the MLS, though, so check out sites like ForSaleByOwner.com, or drive around the neighborhood you want to live in and keep your eyes open for FSBO signs.

4. Explore iBuyer inventory 

An iBuyer is a company — different from a real estate brokerage — that leverages proprietary technology to offer cash to sellers instantly. iBuyers have built up inventory from these sellers, so as a buyer, you have the opportunity to browse dozens of listings through these companies.

5. Build from the ground up

Not able to find exactly what you are looking for? Consider building a home instead. You can either research listings in new-construction developments in your area to get a sense of what’s available or vacant land listings if you want to build a property with your own crew from scratch.

6. Be prepared to move fast

While buying a home is a decision you shouldn’t normally rush into, today, if you find a home you like, be ready to move fast. Homes are moving quickly in most markets, so you need to be comfortable making an offer right away if you’re interested in a property. One of the best ways to do this is to get preapproved for a mortgage. Then, with your financing in place, you can confidently make an offer without the delays you would encounter if you still needed to sort out your loan.

7. Stay flexible

You might not find absolutely everything you want in a home, and the closing process can present challenges, so being flexible is key. Consider what you’re willing to compromise on ahead of time, and if a seller accepts your offer, know you’ll likely have to deal with hiccups along the way. If you find yourself in a bidding war, some savings to spare can also be helpful.

Written by
Sarah Sharkey
Contributing Writer
Sarah Sharkey is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Sarah writes about a range of subjects, including banking, savings tips, homebuying, homeownership and personal finance.