In an ideal world, house hunting would be a perfectly smooth process. You’d tour a handful of houses, find your favorite, make an offer, and be under contract within a couple of days tops. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and the stars won’t always align on your first attempt to find a house. What happens when you’re short on time and it’s imperative that you find a place quickly? When it’s a seller’s market and competition is fierce, timing is everything. Here’s how to prepare when you need to find a home pronto.

Get Pre-Approved

Before you view even one single house, it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Speak with a mortgage lender to see how much house you can afford. The best way to do this is to figure out what your target monthly payment should be. Your lender will be able to walk you through the qualifications, lock you in to an interest rate before it goes up, and let you know what price points you should be looking at to meet that monthly payment. Having a pre-approval letter in hand is also extremely helpful when it’s time to make an offer on a home. Most sellers want to see proof that you can afford their house and are serious about your offer.

Enlist the Help of a Savvy Real Estate Agent

It’s always a smart move to work with a Realtor®. When time isn’t exactly on your side, it’s even more important to have the assistance of a seasoned real estate agent who really knows the area and the market well. Give your agent your target sales price, a list of criteria, and a general area of where you’d like to look, and they’ll get right to work sending you listings to peruse. You’ll be able to narrow down a list of what you’d like to see in person and what you’d rather pass on. Once you find a house you love, your agent will know exactly how to write an attractive offer and speed the process up to get you to the closing table quicker.

Whittle Down Your Wish List

If your list of “must haves” is too long, it can really put a damper on your home search. It’s rare to find a home within a specific budget that meets every single wish on your list. Paring down your wish list can help open up your options. Just think. If you insist on only looking at homes with wood flooring throughout, you could be missing out on your dream home just because it has carpets in two of the bedrooms. That’s something that can be remedied easily before you even move in. On the other hand, it’s good not to be too vague with your wish list. The fewer boxes you check, the longer your list of homes will be, and you don’t want to be overwhelmed with mediocre choices. Think about what’s most important to you beyond details of the house. Is it important to be in a certain neighborhood or part of town? Do you desire a walkable neighborhood? A short commute? Lots of options for dining out and nightlife? Pick a couple of things that are most important, and you’ll find yourself moving in the right direction.

Take Notes

When you’ve spent an entire afternoon looking at houses, the details can all start to run together and get a little blurry. To keep this from happening, grab a notebook and a pen before you set out on your house hunting voyage (or ask your agent for MLS printouts you can write on and keep). Take notes at each stop, jotting down the pros and cons, things you might have to change about the house after you take possession, and any other details that stand out to you. It’s also a good idea to snap a few photos of each listing so you can look back on those details later and decide if they were really as great (or not-so-great, as the case may be) as you thought they were at first sight.

Relax and Make a Final Decision

After you’ve seen all your options, gather your notes and photos and take a little down time to review. Have lunch or dinner, a cup of coffee or a cocktail, and revisit your top favorite properties in your mind. You might even find that you want to go back and see a certain property one more time before making a final decision. Either way, take just a little time out from your fast-paced day of house hunting to ensure that you’re not rushing to a decision just so you can meet a deadline.

Once you’ve found the home you want, your real estate agent will help you write an offer that’s equal parts beneficial for you and attractive to the seller and submit it to the seller’s agent. With your agent working in your corner—and maybe a little luck on your side—you’ll be closing on your new house in no time at all.

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