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Updated: May 24, 2023

Home Buying Tips to Win in Fast Markets

Home buying tips and inside information for buyers looking at homes for sale in fast-paced real estate markets. How to find hidden houses on the market.

The recovery of the economy's housing sector has been slow and steady, but in some markets properties move incredibly fast. In these areas, buyers have to make speedy decisions and act quickly because demand for homes is high, supply is low and many homes go under contract in two weeks or less. Take a look at some of the fastest selling markets and offer home buying tips for would-be buyers to get in on the action.

The fastest markets

Numbers from late last year show properties changed hands at lightning speed in San Jose, Calif. As of November, 48.6 percent of homes listed for sale were off the market with sales pending in less than two weeks, up 0.6 percent from October. With 12 days as the median length of time spent on the market, buyers need to jump on homes when they find them. Figures are similar in San Francisco where demand also outpaces supply.

The biggest increase in speedy sales over the prior month as of November happened in foreclosure-battered Las Vegas: Homes which went under contract in less than two weeks jumped by 5.7 percent. Trailing this figure just slightly was Ventura, Calif., where home prices were also up from the previous year.

In Boston, housing sales inventory was down by about 29 percent, making it a sellers' haven in which homes moved quickly. Paul Bishop, vice president for the National Association of Realtors, said, "Some homes are flying off the market in a matter of days."

Denver and Seattle are also markets which have seen growth over the prior year and fast-moving inventory.

Winning home buying tips

With buyers facing repeated frustration by missing out on home after home to other buyers, the key is to get smart and use as many resources as possible.

Working with an agent can give a buyer a leg up on the search. A high-volume real estate agency can have numerous new properties listed daily and those for sale may not get listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) right away. An agent at such a brokerage may know of a new listing before it becomes public knowledge.

Agents in some markets, including San Francisco and Las Vegas, have access to real-time MLS alerts. They will receive a notification for new listings right after they are entered, although it will take a while for those listings to show up in public searches. A good agent may be able to point these out, so the buyer can pounce quickly and avoid repeated frustration from coming too late to bid on a home.

Agents also have access to expired listings. Some homeowners may have listed the house a few years ago—when the markets were much slower and credit was tighter—and given up. These former sellers may be prompted to get back in the market when contacted by an agent. Following the adage that it never hurts to ask, buyers can work with the agent to sort through listings that may have fallen between the cracks when the housing bubble crashed.

Don't skimp

When homes are flying off the market at a breakneck pace, it doesn't make any sense to try to low-ball an offer. If the home is suited to the buyer and it is priced fairly, it makes more sense to submit an offer for the full asking price rather than be beaten out by someone willing to pay more.

Look past the ugly

In a fast-paced market, buyers need the vision to see past cosmetic flaws or unflattering photos of the home. A diamond in the rough might be hidden by dated furnishings or bad lighting, and savvy buyers will be able to see through the ugly and assess the bones of a home.

As the housing market continues to undergo changes, buyers in booming locations will need to be knowledgeable and really know what they are after. They will also have to balance their expectations and know what compromises they are willing to make. As mortgage rates inch upward, getting frozen out of the market for too long can be costly.