If you’re looking to buy a house in the Atlanta area, you should be warned: It’s a seller’s market. But if you prepare yourself, work closely with your real estate agent who is an expert in the buying process and stay on top of things, you’ll have a better chance at landing a house.

Home prices in the Atlanta region increased 18 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Economists say the reason for the spike is a dearth of new-construction homes as well as limited inventory. There were 110,000 homes on the market in 2007. There’s only 35,000 today.

So how do you make yourself stand out as the best buyer in a strong seller’s market?

Work extremely closely with your real estate agent

If there’s a new listing, you need to know your agent will contact you as soon as possible. Even if there are only rumblings that a house in a particular neighborhood is about to go on the market, you want to be in constant communication with your agent so you can be ready to look at a house at a moment’s notice.

Get prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage loan

In a seller’s market you really need to be prepared. You’ll get all the nitty gritty details of combing through your finances — income, debts, assets — out of the way. The lender will also evaluate your credit history to help determine if you qualify for a loan and how much they’ll loan you. Your credit also plays a part in determining your interest rate. The better credit you have, the lower the interest rate you’ll get.

When you’re preapproved and make an offer, the seller will know that the funding is in place, which makes your offer stronger.

Limit contingencies

If you need to sell your house before you buy, a seller’s market is not the place to make an offer contingent upon you selling your house. With low inventory and a house that’s priced right, you’ll likely see someone else who is prequalified with a loan or cash in hand snatch up the house.

Be flexible

When you make an offer, accommodate the seller as best you can. If you know the seller wants to be out of the house as soon as possible, offer a short closing. If you know they want to be there for 2 more months, offer a longer closing. Also, let your mind be flexible, too. If you see photos of a house and think you don’t like it, go see it anyway. If you look at a house, consider the neighborhood and floor plan. The flooring, paint color and appliances can easily be changed once you’re in the house.

Finally, make your offer strong. Now’s not the time for low-balling or second-guessing. Make the highest offer you can; you never know if there will be someone else trying to outbid you.

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