In many cities supplies are tight, this means there is a real lack of inventory out there. Here in Seattle this is especially true, and lenders are being much more cautious than they have been in the past. We are fast approaching stats similar to those back in '07 before things went downhill, BUT... without the predatory lending! This is a good thing.
Having or saving that down payment is tough for younger first time buyers, student debt is higher than it has been in years. These and many other factors are creating a very competitive market. The more qualified you make yourself as a buyer the more competitive your offer will be and more streamlined the process will be (having a good agent is also a must;). The really great thing for buyers is that the interest rates are still super low! The source link below is a great article I found on money.cnn.com, it has some great advice and a great checklist... buyers must read.
"Interest rates remain the envy of even your grandparents," says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage publisher HSH.com. First, make your finances sparkle.
12 months in advance
Make sure the time is right. Use Trulia.com's rent or buy calculator to see if you'd really come out ahead, based on loan rates, taxes, and where rents and prices are headed in your area. Nationwide it's 38% cheaper buying vs. renting.
Six months out
Look better to lenders. To boost your credit score, order your free credit reports at annualcreditreport.com and fix any mistakes. Pay bills on time, chip away at credit card balances, avoid new debt, and don't close any accounts or apply for new credit. The average credit score for approved mortgage applicants is 755.
Prove you're a serious shopper. Based on your income and credit, a bank will give you a mortgage pre-approval. "It's the No. 1 thing you want in your back pocket when you go shopping," says Svenja Gudell, an economist with Zillow.