Homes Sold in May Stayed on the Market for Just 6 Days on Average

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Houses are selling quickly. That's great for sellers -- but for buyers, not so much.

In a normal housing market, prospective buyers have the luxury to go check out a listed home, think things over, and come back a few days later with an offer. In today's market, that system just won't fly.

Houses are flying off the market so quickly that these days, if you visit a home and like what you see, you'd better put in an offer on the spot. Better yet, you should put in an offer with an escalation clause, which is a provision that raises that offer automatically if another buyer comes in to outbid you.

And to be clear, in today's market, losing a bidding war is pretty much the norm, even if you make an offer that's well over a home's asking price.

The typical amount of time for a home to sit on the market was just six days in May, reports Zillow. In April, the average time between a listing and a contract was only seven days.

If you believe now is a good time to buy a home, you'll need to be prepared to move quickly when you see a property you think might be the right one for you. But at the same time, you don't want to make an offer on the wrong home.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge.

1. Does this home have the most important features I want?

In today's red-hot housing market, you can only be so picky with regard to the features you're looking for. But that doesn't mean you should compromise on the things that are most important to you.

If you have a larger family and need a home with at least four bedrooms, don't settle for a three-bedroom house with no option to build out a bonus room. That's the sort of thing that just won't work well for your family in the long run.

On the other hand, if the home you're looking at has a nice-sized kitchen with outdated countertops and appliances, that's the sort of thing you can work around, even if a gourmet kitchen is on your wish list. That's because you can always renovate that kitchen as long as you have the space.

2. Is the home priced competitively?

In today's housing market, home prices are up across the board. But if the home you're looking to buy is being listed at a much higher price than comparable homes in that same neighborhood, you may want to look elsewhere.

If you make an offer on a home that's overpriced, you'll run the risk that it won't appraise for a high enough amount to qualify for a mortgage. Plus, you don't want to buy a home at a price that's too high off the bat because if you go to sell several years later, you could end up taking a big loss.

3. Are there obvious problems or flaws with this home?

You might think that a major flaw, like a busted roof or heating system in need of replacement, is something you can work with a seller on. But in today's housing market, sellers may not be so flexible since they know they have the upper hand. As such, you may not want to make an offer on a home that clearly needs work -- unless that home happens to be underpriced to account for its shortcomings.

In today's market, buyers need to move quickly, and that's a tough thing to do when you're talking about such a major purchase. Run through these questions before you rush to make an offer on a home so you don't regret your decision afterward.

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