By Amanda Pilley  |  Spring has come early to Southeast Alaska.  Traditionally, this is the busiest time of year in the real estate industry.  It’s not uncommon for rising temperatures and extended daylight to trigger the home-buying bug in folks.  Cooperative weather makes moving easier, school schedules are more convenient, and homes are shown in their most tantalizing light this time of year.  Spring also brings a surge of homes flooding the market, which means more buying competition and possibly an increase in prices.  If you find yourself shopping for a house this spring, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success.

Get pre-approved by a local lender for a home loan before you shop for a home.

Before you do anything else, before you start shopping, do yourself and everyone else a favor and get pre-approved by a local lender for a home loan.  Seriously.  This is going to save you so much heartache.   Local lenders have an advantage here in Southeast because they will be able to recognize and work with your unique living situation, and you need to know how much your budget can handle before you go out and become attached to a home that you cannot afford.  Knowing how much you are qualified to borrow gives you power in the home buying process.  A lot of Real Estate agents and home sellers won’t take you seriously if you don’t have a pre-approval because it is a waste of their time (and yours).  If this is the case, don’t be surprised if they won’t even show you a home.

Hire a Realtor

Unless you work in the industry, or you have bought and sold a few houses already, I highly suggest that you do yourself a favor and hire a Realtor.  Hire someone with experience in several types of real estate transactions who will help you with your home search, the paperwork, negotiations, and inspections.  Get started early and make sure you interview three or four.  Ask for references from your friends.  When you finally do close on your house, having the right agent could save you thousands of dollars.

Determine your needs and wants

Once you are finally able to start shopping for your home, it is crucial that you prioritize your needs and wants.  Your needs and the needs of your family are uniquely your own, so you will want to determine the things that you absolutely must have in a house and in a neighborhood.  Focus on the location and on features that meet your basic requirements.  Are you close to the school that your kids will be attending?  Will you have a long commute?  Does your house have enough bedrooms?  Try to see past the cracking paint job and look at the potential of a home.  Some things you won’t be able to change, but cosmetic issues can be addressed. Focusing on your needs and wants will help you narrow down your home search and expedite the buying process.

Be prepared to move fast

As a buyer, you need to be prepared to move fast this time of year.  If you see a home come on the market that you are interested in, don’t be indecisive.  Have your agent show you the home as soon as possible, and be ready to make an offer.

If you decide to go ahead and make an offer, make it a good one!  You are likely not the only one looking at the house, so don’t waste your time be offering too little.  You can also consider offering the seller other incentives, such as an extra day to move out.  Work closely with your agent to negotiate the right price so that the seller will accept it.

Regardless of the season, the best time to stop renting and buy a house is when it costs less to buy than to rent.  Interest rates are still low, but won’t stay low forever, so now is a great time to get into the market.  Getting an early start will give you a leg up on everyone else who is thinking about buying a house this spring.

Amanda has lived in Southeast Alaska for most of her adult life and recently moved back to Juneau for the third time. She is a graduate of Albertson College of Idaho with a degree in Creative Writing. To reach Amanda, please feel free to email her at