How To Buy A Home in a Competitive Market

House Hunting in the Spring Market? Get ready for the competition.

The Spring market came early to the Greater Washington DC area. In fact, throughout the winter in the District, there has been competition for condos and single family homes.

We competed against 8 other buyers for a 900 square foot condo in N.W. Washington in December. One of our colleagues competed with 11 buyers for a single family home in Arlington Virginia. Both of us were successful and our buyers are very happy with their new homes. 

Success in a competitive market is part luck, part strategy & part timing. 

With this in mind, here are some tried and true strategies for... 

How to buy a home in a competitive market

  • Find an excellent real estate agent who responds to your emails, texts & phone calls

It takes a team to buy a home. You, the home buyer, are the team captain. Your real estate agent, lender, and settlement attorney are on Team (your name) I am always surprised to meet new clients who tell me their previous agent didn't call them back. What? A real estate agents business is service and if you are chasing them down, don't bother! Your agent should always respond in a timely fashion. How are you going to be competitive if you can't get into a house? 

Inventory in the Greater Washington DC & Baltimore area continues to be low. According to the Washington Post, January was the 9th consecutive month of declines in year-over-year inventory levels in the DC area. What's a home buyer to do? 

  • Check the Multiple Listing Updates every day.

Do not rely on real estate advertising sites for current information. These sites are not required to keep their information accurate and up to date.

The MLS is a repository for all homes for sale listed by real estate brokerages. This is the "mother ship" and all other real estate sites get their information from the MLS. 

  • Be pre-approved for a home loan & work with a local lender

Why a local lender? Because they understand the local market and work with local real estate agents. Short story:  We had a buyer who wanted to use her cousin as her lender. Her cousin was a lender in another state almost 300 miles away. The out-of-state lender had never written a home loan for a house on well & septic. It was a VA loan and the lender did not contact the proper people in Virginia so-the loan was not approved by the underwriters. Fortunately, we had a relationship with a local lender who literally saved the day! He took over the loan process and had our buyers in their new home within 20 days! This is nothing short of a miracle considering most loans take at least 30 days. 

Moral of the story: Use a local lender when buying a home. 

  • Write down your "can't live without" list. 

This is one of the most important lists you will write in your life. I'm not kidding. Your "can't live without" list includes the dreams you've had about home ownership. My list included a fireplace because I pictured my children's stockings hanging there at Christmas and warm nights with my family reading books by the fire. This is a serious list!  And most important, it's personal. There's no right or wrong with what is on this list but you have to write it or you may miss an important part of your dream. 

  • Drive and walk the neighborhoods where you may want to live. 

The people you see may soon be part of your life and your children's lives too. How does the community feel? Do people take care of their yards and houses? This is a chance to feel the vibe of a place. Does it feel right to you? 

  • Gather information about the local schools. is an excellent place to start but do more than that if you are weighing what neighborhood and school will fit your needs. Call the school and ask if you could set up a tour. Go to a local community or civic organization meeting. This is where you will hear what's happening in a community.

  • Finally and most important, make sure your credit and finances are in good shape. 

A good local lender will check your credit and discuss what loan options are best for you. Once again, this lender, your real estate agent and the settlement attorney all work on your behalf. They are Team (you)! Providing quality service should be their highest priority.

Remember, you, the buyer, are financing this transaction. You deserve 100% protection and loyalty throughout the entire process.

And by the way, it should be fun. Of course, it's a little scary but most things worthwhile are at first. 


More information on How to Buy a Home

Suze Orman Four expensive home buying mistakes

Warren Buffett thinks you should buy a home

Buying a home in 2017? Here's what to expect