What to do when it's a seller's market in real estate

The historically low interest rates right now have would-be homeowners out in droves. Coupled with the fact that many established homeowners aren't selling, the situation is making the median price of a home in New York City soar.

Unless you have deep pockets and plenty of spare cash, a seller's market can be difficult for buyers to endure. Here are some tips that might make house-hunting go a little easier:

  1. Do your research online. These days, sellers don't want to waste their time with buyers who aren't serious. The days of strolling through a dozen homes just to get the feel for what you might like are over. Take advantage of virtual home tours and look carefully at online listings instead.

  2. Get pre-approved for a loan. Sellers may reject a bid on a home simply because they don't want to mess around with a buyer whose finances aren't in shape. A pre-approval from your bank clarifies your buying power and reassures sellers.

  3. Take an inspector with you. If you've finally found a home that you want to look at in person, take your home inspector with you. That way, you can waive the inspection contingency if you decide to make an offer -- which virtually guarantees the seller that you won't bail on the deal over some defect that wasn't noticed.

  4. Make an offer letter. Tell the buyer how much you love the home and why it's perfect for you or your family. It may sound cheesy or strange, but a lot of people have an emotional attachment to their homes and they want to know that the next person who lives there will care for it just as much as they did.

Finally, remember this cardinal rule: Don't overpay. Real estate markets go up and down all the time, so focus on what will make you happy -- not the price. Once you've found the right home, make sure that you speak with an experienced real estate attorney to make sure that the title is clear and transaction goes off without a hitch.