the secret 645099 m resized 600As I walked through a nearby café this morning, I heard a young woman lamenting to her friend that she found five homes listed for sale online that she liked but three of them were already sold. This is a common concern among today’s home buyers in the Boston area, who are battling for a slim number of homes for sale. According the Warren Group, “low inventory continues to plague the [real estate] market.” With the volume of homes for sale in our area at an eight-year low, it’s tough on home buyers. So what can you do to make the home buying process easier? Here are three quick tips.

1. Look beyond third-party real estate sites. The most popular real estate websites receive home listing information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is the database where brokers and realtors enter home listings for sale. The data is then syndicated over a period of days to sites such as, Trulia, and Zillow. By the time the homes show up in some of these real estate sites, they may already be under agreement.

If you’re looking to buy a home, ask a local realtor to set you up with home listings directly from the MLS. This way you’ll be notified by email or text message as soon as new listings are entered into the MLS.

2. Look beyond the MLS. Getting signed up for MLS listings is just the start, but in a tight real estate market, many homes are sold without ever being entered into the Boston MLS. In fact, a recent study of public real estate records found that more than 30 percent of homes sold were never listed in the MLS.

To avoid missing out on these homes, consider working with a buyer’s agent who will proactively search for homes on your behalf. Once your agent has a good sense of the ideal home, neighborhood, and community you’re seeking, they can reach out to their network of contacts as well as fellow realtors to help identify properties that are good fit for you. This should give you the opportunity to tour homes, without feeling rushed to make a decision before someone else snaps up the home. Tip: It should not cost you anything to have buyer representation, since home sale commissions are paid by the home seller.

To find the best agent, ask your friends, family, and colleagues for advice. You can also get personal recommendations from your lender, who should have experience working with a wide range of real estate agents and know who will offer the best service. Also, read online reviews to get a sense of other home buyers’ experiences working with that agent.

3. Shop just below your price range. This may sound counter-intuitive. Many people tend to increase the price range they’re searching in when they’re struggling to find a new home. However, you may want to consider looking just below your price range.

If you do find a home that works, you’ll be better positioned to take steps to make your offer stronger if you’re in a multiple bid situation. And you’ll have the budget to deal with little fixes that some other buyers may not have wanted to deal with.

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