Inventory Shortage? How to Find a House When Listings are Scarce (Updated for 2023)

Inventory Shortage? How to Find a House When Listings are Scarce (Updated for 2023)

A shortage of housing inventory made it difficult for many homebuyers to find a house this year. And according to many experts, next year may be much of the same.

As more and more Baby Boomers age in place and existing homeowners stay in their homes longer (an average of 23 years in some cities!), the last few years have seen a “historic low level” of housing inventory.

If you’re looking to buy a house in the new year, this may have you a little worried. Fortunately, all hope isn’t lost. Despite low levels of inventory, there are still ways to find that dream house in 2023 – you just might have to be a little more creative to do it.

1. Get a Connected Real Estate Agent. 

You want an agent with a strong network of sellers, other agents, and community members. They’re most likely to know of any pocket or off-market listings you might be able to take advantage of. (These are listings only the agent and other pros know about. They’re not listed on the MLS or other selling platforms, sometimes due to privacy concerns or, often, because the sellers are just testing the water and gauging interest). 

An experienced agent may also have a trove of “coming soon” listings that are nearing the listing phase but haven’t been put on the market just quite yet. These can offer a prime opportunity for both buyer and seller.

  • This website allows you to search for real estate agents by location, experience, and specialization.
  • Trulia: This website also allows you to search for real estate agents, and it also provides reviews and ratings from other homebuyers.
  • Zillow: This website has a “Find an Agent” tool that allows you to search for agents by location and expertise.

2. Ask About Expired and Withdrawn Listings.

You can also have your agent scour the MLS for any listings that were withdrawn from the market or expired due to lack of interest. Oftentimes, this happens when a home is overpriced. Maybe the seller’s price point is validated now, given today’s market conditions? If so, your agent can reach out and express your interest. They may still be willing to sell if the price is right.

  • MLS: The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database of homes for sale that is used by real estate agents. You can search for expired and withdrawn listings on the MLS website.
  • Redfin: This website also allows you to search for expired and withdrawn listings.

3. Build One From Scratch.

If you can’t buy what you’re looking for, simply build it. There are hundreds of home builders across the nation, offering choices in all styles, sizes, and price ranges. The best part? You can customize the house exactly as you like it, and there’s no damage from previous homeowners (or their kids or pets).

If you’re worried about the price of a new home, consider buying a spec house (one the builder constructed without a committed buyer). You can also skip using a real estate agent when buying new, as many builders will reward this with cash off your purchase price (because they don’t have to pay an agent commission). 

  • This website allows you to search for home builders by location and style.
  • This website also allows you to search for home builders, and it also provides reviews and ratings from other homebuyers.

4. Look at Rentals — and Make Landlords an Offer.

Check your market for single-family rental homes that fit what you’re looking for in terms of size, style, and location. If you find a match, reach out to the landlord and find out their situation. Is there currently a tenant? Would they be willing to sell the property once the tenant moves out? If so, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

  • Craigslist: This website is a good place to find rental homes that are not listed on the MLS.
  • Trulia: This website also allows you to search for rental homes.
  • Zillow: This website also allows you to search for rental homes.

5. Contact an Existing Homeowner. 

By the same token, you can also contact traditional homeowners and see if they’d be willing to sell their properties. You’ll likely have the most luck if they’re empty nesters, they’ve been in the home a while (and maybe due an upgrade), or if they’ve paid down a good amount of their mortgage. You can also contact owners who are in some stage of foreclosure and offer them an out. Selling the home is usually a better option than foreclosure, which can damage a person’s credit for many years. You can find these through your local county clerk’s office usually.

  • Nextdoor: This website allows you to connect with your neighbors, and you can use it to post a message asking if anyone is interested in selling their home.
  • Facebook: You can also use Facebook to connect with your neighbors and ask if anyone is interested in selling their home.

6. Search Above Your Price Range — and Negotiate Them Down.

Expand your price range by $10,000 to $15,000 and see what comes up. There’s a chance you may be able to negotiate a seller down, especially if they’re looking to move fast or haven’t had many offers. Just make sure not to low-ball them too much, and consider dropping a few contingencies or offering a bigger earnest money deposit to sweeten the pot.

7. Look for FSBOs.

FSBOs, or for sale by owners, aren’t always listed on the MLS and might not be shown on sites like Zillow, Trulia, or To see if any of these homes are available in your neighborhood, check out,, and You may even check the local classifieds section. 

  • This website is a dedicated marketplace for FSBOs.
  • This website is another good place to find FSBOs.
  • This website also allows you to search for FSBOs.

Help Your Case by Getting Approved to Move™

Inventory is tight, which means the competition heats up, and you may find yourself facing a bidding war. When you get Approved to Move™ with Embrace, you’ll have a fully underwritten approval in-hand — something sellers love because it’s basically as good as a cash offer. They’ll know that you’re prepared, financially able, and a safe bet they can be confident in.

Want to learn more about Approved to Move™? Contact a loan officer at Embrace Home Loans today.

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