Homebuyers: To Get the House, Get There First
Housing inventory is stiflingly tight in many locations, making it a challenge to find, much less land, your dream home.
The number of available houses in the hottest markets has dropped dramatically over the past year, says the National Association of Realtors: In the Boston area, for one, inventory levels are down 29% vs. 2012. And Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco aren’t far behind.
“Some homes are flying off the market in a matter of days,” says Paul Bishop, VP of research for NAR.
These strategies will help you find homes first, stopping a bidding war before it starts.
One way to head off the competition is to look for so-called pocket listings, homes that are for sale but don’t show up on the multiple listing service, where brokers post available properties.
Owners may choose not to list because they want to keep details about their houses private, or simply because they don’t want to deal with staging the home and taking photos, says Zillow contributor and agent Brendon DeSimone, who works in New York and California.
Agents who have experience with pocket listings should be able to tell you about examples of off-the-radar houses they’ve handled in the past, as well as any they are currently aware of (keep in mind that pocket listings are most common in areas with tight inventory).
A caution: Buyers considering an unlisted property should be on the lookout for defects and check that the price is in line with the area.
Get the real-time scoop
Many would-be buyers depend on automatic search, a regular roundup of listings sent out by the local MLS. But by the time these emails go out to shoppers, included homes may have been online for hours or even days.
Ask your agent about real-time MLS alerts, emails that are sent the moment a new listing goes live. To increase your chances of getting that call, tell him that you’d like to be notified immediately, and be sure he knows exactly what type of house you’re after.
See through bad listings
Don’t be scared off by a hideous paint job, bad lighting, or unflattering photos. “Sometimes sellers don’t listen to agents about getting the house ready for sale,” says DeSimone.
In a tight market, he says, it’s worth checking out marginal listings to avoid missing a badly packaged gem — just factor in the price of any project required to bring the home up to snuff.