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Spring is the hottest home buying season, and this year, we are beginning to see a market shift, says Mary Lynn Stone, President of Century 21 New Millennium. Once a buyer’s dream, the market is now shifting back toward the seller’s side due to the inventory of homes on the market being low. What does this mean for you, the buyer? If you are looking for a new home this spring and summer, you may be in for a little competition.

Don’t let this deter you. In order to get your dream home for your dream price, become the best possible buyer you can be—before you even begin looking. This way, when you are dealing with a seller, you will have all of your ducks in a row, and they will take your offer seriously.

Below are Stone’s tips for becoming a better buyer.

Be pre-approved. “Many sellers won’t even consider buyers who aren’t already pre-approved for a mortgage, so do yourself a favor and take care of this before you even begin hunting,” says Stone.

Having a solid handle on your credit score is one way to becoming a better buyer.

Understand your credit score. It’s not just enough to know your credit score. Thoroughly understand it, and know what it means for your lending status. And don’t just stop with one credit report. “Most lenders pull scores from all three major credit bureaus, so make sure you do the same so you’re familiar with the same numbers,” suggests Stone.

Look past your credit score. Now that you’ve got a solid handle on your credit, move forward. It’s not the be-all and end-all. Lenders will focus on other things as well, such as your income, your debt-to-income ratio, and how much of a down payment you plan on putting forward. Which brings us to…

How much down payment can you afford? A lender will be more eager to approve you if you can put down a larger down payment. How much is enough? Stone suggests having at least 20 percent of the purchase cost on hand.

Can you do cash? While it may be a stretch for some, being able to make your offer in cash will make you a dream buyer. So if you can swing it, then this may be the way to go in order to surpass competition.

Be ready to make a move.  With low inventory of homes on the market, new listings are going quickly.  If you find a home that meets your criteria, be prepared to make an offer sooner rather than later.

For more information on buying a home, please contact Century 21 New Millennium at move@c21nm.com, 800-382-1101, or Century 21 New Millennium.

CENTURY 21 New Millennium. Smarter. Bolder. Faster. CENTURY 21 New Millennium, www.c21nm.com, is a full service real estate brokerage company specializing in residential and luxury properties. In addition to its newest Washington D.C. location, the Virginia locations are in Alexandria, Centreville, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Gainesville, McLean, Stafford, and Woodbridge. The Maryland offices are located in Annapolis, Columbia, Dunkirk, La Plata, Lexington Park, Lusby and Waldorf. Its core services include: mortgage financing, investing, settlement services, property management, property insurance, global relocation assistance, and commercial real estate.