Buyers started house hunting early this year in many areas to get a jump on the market while interest rates are still low. However, many buyers are finding that there are not enough houses to go around, at least not of the kind they’re looking for. If you’re having difficulty finding a home to buy, here are some tips about how to maximize your opportunities.

Find a good agent in the area or areas where you want to buy. If you’re looking in more than one area, you may need more than one agent–one for each area. A local specialist can get new listing information to you quickly and can advise you what to offer if you find yourself in competition. A local agent is also more likely to have established rapport with local listing agents. This can be quite useful when attempting to negotiate a home purchase.

Make sure that you and your agent are on the same page. Share your wish list with your agent. It’s a good idea to visit at least several homes with your agent initially to make sure that you and your agent agree on what it is that you want.

One agent didn’t show a contemporary-style home to a buyer because she thought the buyer wanted an older, traditional style home. The buyer bought a contemporary home, through another agent. It turned out what she really wanted was a home with architectural distinctiveness. It made no difference to her whether the style was traditional or contemporary.

Look at every listing that might work for you. This is how you learn the idiosyncrasies of the local housing market. After you look for a while, you may find that your wish list is too restrictive. You’ll have to compromise no matter what or where you buy. But, before you can decide how you’ll be willing to compromise, you need to know what your options are.

For instance, you may ideally want a three-car garage. After looking, you discover you’ll be lucky to find a two-car garage in the neighborhood where you hope to live. So, you will need to make a choice. Either you drop the requirement for a three-car garage, or you start looking in neighborhoods where three-car garages are available. Be sure to let your agent know if you make changes to your wish list.

One way to increase your options is to broaden your search. You might consider more than one neighborhood or area. Or, you might open yourself to different architectural styles. The broader your options, the more listings you’ll see, and the less frustrated you’ll become.

Don’t overlook expired or withdrawn listings. Recently, home buyers who were having a difficult time finding a home to buy asked their agent about a listing they saw months before when they first started looking. The listing hadn’t sold. There had been an accepted offer, but it fell apart over inspections issues. The listing was off the market while the sellers completed repairs. The buyers’ agent contacted the listing agent who said the sellers were planning to re-market the house when the repairs were complete. The buyers made an offer before the listing went back on the market. It was accepted and the transaction closed.

THE CLOSING: Let friends and colleagues know what you’re looking for. One buyer got a tip from someone she worked with that a home was coming on the market in her neighborhood. The elderly seller wanted to avoid a full marketing campaign because of her ill health. This fortunate buyer was able to buy the property before it went on the market.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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