In a competitive real estate market, it can take months, and sometimes even years, to buy a home. Whether you’re consistently outbid by other buyers, or it seems competing buyers are always one step ahead, it can feel as if you’re at a distinct disadvantage when you’re house hunting in a market where homes can go under contract within hours.

But you don’t always have the luxury of waiting. Maybe you’re moving from another state and need a place to live now. Whatever the reason, if you need to buy a home fast, real estate transactions can fly through quickly — with a little luck and a lot of preparation.

Here are some tips to improve your chances of finding and closing on a house quickly.

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Work With an Experienced Agent

One of the best ways to speed up the home buying process is to work with an expert. Make sure you have an excellent real estate agent to guide you along the way.

Part of what makes a terrific agent is the connections they bring. Find a realtor familiar with your preferred area. If they are plugged into a neighborhood, your agent will know what properties are coming to market weeks before the public does.

And the better your relationship with the agent, the more likely they are to give you a sneak peek. This will give you a head start in finding out if that listing is right for you.

Sell Your House Before You Buy

One of the easiest ways to slow down a purchase is to add in a contingency sale. And let’s face it: In fast-moving markets, buyers rarely want to deal with a contingency offer. But if you unload your home before you begin your search, you set yourself up for success.

By this point, you’ll have a good amount of equity in the bank, and flexibility with your closing date — both of which put you ahead of other buyers. You just have to put your things in storage for a few months and rent out month to month. And as a bonus, you’ll be all packed up, mostly, before you’ve even moved in this scenario.

Get Pre-Approved

It’s a good idea to get pre-qualified for a mortgage before starting your house hunt, but getting pre-approved is even more of a necessity if you’re eager to close quickly.

That way, you can walk into an open house with a pre-approval letter showing you’re a serious buyer who is bank-approved, and can afford the home price. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage makes your offer look stronger. It also minimizes any surprises that may delay, or force a cancellation during escrow.

And keep in mind that pre-qualified isn’t the same thing as pre-approved. A pre-qualification requires little more than a quick conversation with your lender, and perhaps a peek at your credit score. A pre-approval basically front-loads the entire underwriting process.

Keep Your Credit Score High

Between the time you’re pre-qualified for a mortgage and underwriting, making any simple credit mistakes can jeopardize your house closing. Try to avoid paying for big purchases on your credit card, opening a new line of credit, or terminating an established one during this time.

The best thing you can do is nothing. Leave your credit alone and don’t change your employment between pre-qualifying and underwriting. Even small changes can make a big impact on your credit report.

Search In Neighborhoods With High Inventory

You likely have a wish list for your next hometown, such as walkability, great schools, and easy access to public transportation. But when finalizing your list of neighborhood must-haves, be sure to look for an area with an abundance of homes for sale. Research shows that a lower home inventory slows down the home buying process.

Think of it this way: If you keep bidding on the same homes in the same neighborhoods as your fellow house hunters, competition is extremely high. But if you look in surrounding areas with sleepier markets, you’ll find more places that match your criteria.

And if the area is less economically prosperous, and you’re coming in with a strong offer (including a 20% down payment,) you might secure a short escrow to speed things up even further.

Prepare to Pay Asking Price Or Above

As fewer people are selling their homes, the ones on the market usually get multiple offers. In a seller’s market, the buyer has less leverage. This means you’ll have little room to negotiate, especially in a shortened timeline.

And If you find a house you love, you must be flexible. If they’re asking for $200,000, then you probably shouldn’t go in at $190,000. Make an offer no lower than asking price, to ensure yours is accepted.

If you’re financing, then you don’t want to pay more than the house is worth, unless you’re willing to make up the difference. That’s because lenders won’t write a mortgage for more than the appraised price.

Buying a home is stressful enough as is and throwing a time crunch into the mix adds even more weight on your shoulders. That’s where a Clever Partner Agent comes in. An experienced realtor will help ease the speedy home buying journey and set accurate expectations in terms of what fees and costs to expect when closing time approaches. Clever can help.