The summer housing market is shaping up to be one of the most competitive ever for home buyers, as inventory remains low and home prices continue to climb.

According to Zillow’s® March Real Estate Market Report, shoppers had almost 9 percent fewer homes to choose from than a year earlier, and more than half of them were in the most expensive one-third of the market. Meanwhile, median home values across the U.S. were up 8 percent from the previous March.

The inventory shortage is poised to make the summer buying season especially competitive for millennials and others seeking to buy their first home or downsize to a smaller home. Zillow’s report showed that only about one in five U.S. homes for sale in March were in the entry-level bottom third.

Although the competitive environment can seem daunting, here are a few tips to help buyers navigate this summer’s housing market.

Make a solid offer. With homes in many markets receiving multiple offers, be ready to compete. Although you might think the highest offer is the strongest, that isn’t always the case. If you have the money, a cash offer can help you win a bidding war. A bigger down payment or a shorter closing or inspection period can also give you an advantage.

Don’t write off older listings. With many homes selling quickly, you might be skeptical of properties that have been on the market awhile. However, older listings shouldn’t necessarily raise a red flag. In some cases, a buyer may have pulled out of a deal on a perfectly good house after getting cold feet or being turned down for a mortgage.

Be flexible. Even if you have your heart set on purchasing a move-in ready home, it’s important to be flexible in this ever-competitive market, which could mean considering a fixer-upper.

Choose the right real estate agent. Choose a local Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated agent who has the experience, resources and tools to effectively guide you through the entire process. A local agent with years of negotiating experience is invaluable when it comes to closing the deal, so contact a Coldwell Banker® affiliated agent today.