Low inventory continues to characterize the real estate market.

There’s an imbalance between demand and supply despite strong consumer confidence and historically low mortgage rates. The shortage of listings is hindering new buyers from entering the market despite their willingness to buy a home, favorable interest rates and a softening of home prices.

Inventory of existing homes that are for sale has fallen for the second consecutive month. This comes after 10 months of year-to-year jumps.

In this complicated market, your offer can be the difference that separates you from other applicants. Here’s how you can make your offer stand out in a bidding war.

Create certainty
A pre-approval creates certainty for both you and the buyer.

When the market is active, you’ll want to show proof of your ability to make good on your offer. A pre-approval does that, and then some. It tells the buyer you’re a serious customer who’s well prepared to make a deal.

Find a good real estate agent
Don’t just go with the first recommendation you receive. Find someone you’re comfortable with and who’s displayed a high level of competency within your market.

When you work with this type of professional, you’ll enter the market with a solid understanding of what to expect and of the challenges you might face.

An ideal real estate agent communicates well, is proactive and is willing to work hard to be your best advocate.

Partner with a lender
Sometimes a pre-approval may not be enough, especially in a competitive market. Once you are pre-approved, partner with a loan consultant who can vouch on your behalf.

The loan professional will be able to talk about your income assets, easing any hesitations from the seller. Your mortgage professional will be more than happy to confirm your pre-approval once you’ve reached the point of making an offer.

Buying and selling a home can be an emotional roller coaster.

These big decisions require careful thinking and consideration. Tip the balance by being a little personal.

Writing a letter to the owners to offer your appreciation doesn’t hurt. Let them know why you love their home and how much of an honor it would be to take over as owners. This personal touch could be a determining factor.

Prioritize what you’re looking for in a home and narrow a search that satisfy your needs.

Determining what’s most important can give you the upper hand in this competitive market. You may not have time to find areas with the best X,Y,Z, but at least you’ll know that you have researched homes that meet your highest priorities.

Finding clarity on what you’re looking for can help reduce stress during this period of time, in which you’ll be competing with other families and investors.