Buying a homeis both a gratifying experience and challenging endeavor.

This is especially the case this season. A healthy U.S. economy and steady job growth are translating to robust demand at a time when housing supply is insufficient in much of the country. Although the National Association of Realtors is anticipating this to be the best year for home sales in a decade, the journey from home search to closing can be a daunting one.

To help, here are three insider tips:

• Be ready: It’s a swift-moving housing market right now. Rising homesales amid inadequate homebuilding have only exasperated tight supply conditions. Consider this: The inventory for existing homes on the market has declined annually each month for the past two years and homes for sale are typically going under contract in less than a month. Also, note that inventoryis the tightest at lower price ranges. If you’re on the hunt for a home in the affordable price range – around $250,000 to $500,000 in most areas – expect immediate interest from several other buyers. You’ll need to move fast if you see a property you like.

• Rely on a real estate agent: With demand significantly outpacing supply in many areas, it’s common for buyers to be on the receiving end of a losing offer or two before finding their dream home. That’s why, in today’s competitive market, the use of a Realtor can be crucial to a successful buying experience. As your trusted partner and negotiator-in-chief, a Realtor will identify homes in your target area. A professional real estate agent can open the door to the home of your dreams when they hit the market, help you present an attractive offer to the seller’s agent and negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get your homeat a price that works for your budget.

Buy only what you can comfortably afford: Buying a home has become a little less affordable compared to a year ago because of the continued rise in prices and higher mortgagerates. If listings are limited in your market, affordability will remain a challenge this year as prospective buyers compete against each other and bid prices upward. This is where the negotiation skills of a Realtor can prove indispensable. Discuss yourtarget price range and stick to it. The satisfaction of winning a bidding war will end quickly if you find yourself living above your means.

The rewarding experience of buying a home may not be easy, but if you work with a Realtor and follow these tips, you can be confident knowing the right home can eventually be yours.

– Courtesy of NAPSI

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