The pandemic has changed the housing market in the United States. If you are just starting your house hunt, there are a few things you should know.

1. Seller's market: The United States is in a prolonged seller's market. This means that there is a low inventory of homes for sale and the market favors the seller right now. In other words, there are more people vying for fewer homes for sale which is, in turn, driving the prices up. In fact, in some markets, the price is so high that people can no longer afford to buy. In Boise, Idaho, for example, the cost of a home currently is 72% above what a median-income household can afford, which is frustrating to many buyers.

2. Pre-approval: In order to move quickly and appeal to sellers in a fast-paced market, buyers need to be pre-approved. Pre-approval is different from simply being pre-qualified. When you are pre-qualified for a loan, it simply means that you have talked to a mortgage loan officer and, based on your answers to their questions, they think you can get a home loan later. Pre-approved, on the other hand, means that your mortgage officer has thoroughly examined all of your financial paperwork and has provided you with a letter from the bank stating exactly how much home you are approved to buy today.

3. Home inspection: There is often confusion about a home inspection. While some desperate buyers have waived their right to a home inspection in order to compete in a tight market, doing so is never a good idea. Other buyers are tight on funds and think that skipping the home inspection will save them money on their purchase. The truth is that the home inspection is some of the best money you will ever spend. When you have a home inspection, the inspector is able to see things due to their expertise that you cannot, including issues with the home's mechanicals, roof, and foundation -- all expensive repair items. 

4. Interest rates: If you are looking for new homes for sale, the time to buy is now. Interest rates are at historic lows and have been for some time. Unfortunately, that cannot last forever. If you buy a home now, you can lock in a low interest rate for the life of your mortgage, potentially saving yourself thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars over the life of your loan. 

When you understand that the market is moving fast and that you need to be prepared with a pre-approval letter, you are better positioned to handle the changing real estate market in the United States. Contact a local real estate agent to get advice on buying current homes for sale.