Forget the groundhog, you can tell it’s almost spring by all the “For Sale” signs in the yards.  

It’s shaping up to be a competitive home buying season, inventory is low and demand is high!  So, if you snooze, you lose!  Literally.  

Lack of preparation is the number one reason people lose their dream home, so here are some tips to keep you ahead of the competition.  

Close your laptop!  Get out of the house and look the old fashioned way

Using Real Estate sites to search for your home is the norm.  90% of people search for listings online during their home-buying process.

Starting your search online is a good idea, but don’t get so caught up that you forget there is a world outside too.  Inventory, in most markets is expected to be tight, so you want to get out and look as soon as possible.  Remember when demand outpaces the inventory of homes, buyers need to be ready to move quickly.  So get pre-approved, know what you are looking for and when you find it, pounce!  

Another thing to remember is that photos online are taken to make the home look it’s absolute best, so it may not accurately represent what you see when you pull up, rather just what the Seller wants you to see.  So, use the internet as a tool, not your whole strategy.  

Some sites let you select certain neighborhoods and then receive alerts when new homes become available, this is the perfect use of the internet, you become alerted and then can go see the home for yourself.

Educate Yourself .  Know the Market Values and Market Trends

Rely on your Realtor for this.  The best source of information is a well connected Real Estate Agent.  They’re the expert and have a wealth of information to share with you.  Ask questions and be sure you really understand the bigger picture.  You can also check out sites like Curbed.com for trends in particular areas and to see where new inventory is popping up.  

Everything isn’t always exactly as it appears.  There could be “micro trends” which are little trends unique to a certain area in your region that could affect prices.  Things like, maybe new homes are selling at a premium to older ones or the demand for condos outpaces the demand for single family homes.  These things will affect your price.  Be aware, too, that there could be micro-trends in your region that 

BUY NOW.  Snag A Low Mortgage Rate—Now

Mortgage rates are going up.  So, now is definitely the time to buy.  Take advantage of the low interest while you can.  

Mortgage rates are still historically low, so buyers are getting a lot more bang for their buck and at payment levels that will be affordable for decades.  Mortgage rates are so low right now that monthly payments are lower than rent in a lot of markets.  

It’s predicted that these low interest rates will stay through the spring.  Home Buyers received another gift recently, when The Federal Housing Authority, which backs loans for borrowers who make low down payments, lowered the annual insurance premium required from 1.35% to just .85%.  It’s estimated that this will save more than 2 million FHA homeowners about $900 a year.  

What this means: It’s a prime time to jump on a home loan. Mortgage rates can be unpredictable—and a decision by the Fed to raise interest rates mid-year, as many economists predict, could cause them to spike.

Build A Home Buying Dream Team…Then Make A Bid

To be a serious contender in the Home Buying game, you need to be organized and ready, especially if a bidding war begins.

You will need a savvy real estate agent obviously, but you’ll also want your lender, inspector and attorney to be ready so you can move fast.  

Complete your mortgage application and get your loan amount determined in advance.  Things move faster today and if you are not 100% pre-approved, you probably won’t get the house.  Some people, the most successful buyers are even going one step further and getting fully approved before purchasing.  Not all lenders offer this, but some do, and if they do, it’s a way to ensure you are the top contender.  And the better known your lender is locally, the more likely you’ll win the confidence of the seller.  Lenders from the Internet can seem sketchy in the eyes of Sellers and their agents.  It’s always best to use someone who is known locally.  

Don't Be Afraid To Sweeten The Deal

So, what if you are stuck in a bidding war with an equally qualified buyer?  How do you win?  

One way is to include an escalation clause, which is an amount that you are willing to pay above a competing bid.  

For example, if you included an escalation clause of $3,000 to your bid of $200,000 and the second offer came in at $205,000, then your bid would get bumped to $208,000. 

You can also consider removing contingency clauses.  Contingencies are terms of a contract that must be met or the buyer or seller can walk away from the deal; home inspection, appraisal and financing contingencies are among the most common.  All of these presents a certain level of risk, so consult with your Realtor and team before removing any.  These can often be removed just by doing due diligence.  For instance, you can remove the financing clause if you get fully approved.  Also, be sure to conduct a pre-inspection prior to making your offer, this way, you won’t have to include an inspection contingency.  

There are also smaller but nice gifts you can use to entice a Seller.  Find out what date the Seller prefers to close, then use that date in your contract.  You can also offer to close as quickly as possible, and offer to accept rent payments from the Seller until their planned move date. Adding these little perks can mean a lot more than you think.  There have been times my seller ultimately went with a lower bid, simply because it had NO CONTINGENCIES. Many Sellers prefer NO RISK as opposed to a few extra bucks.  

Most of this has to do with preparation and knowledge.  Don’t get caught off guard and lose your dream home because you weren’t properly prepared.  This starts with your Realtor.  Find a trusted expert and then work hard with them!

If you're looking for more information or tips on the buying process in Champaign IL, call The Rose Price Team, experts in relocation and led by Rose Price, a trusted Real Estate Agent since 1989.