The current housing market can be unfriendly to buyers. There are fewer homes for sale and a surplus of interested parties, which means that those in the hunt have to move fast when they find their dream house.

In order to succeed in a crowded market, homebuyers must perform a few key steps before submitting an offer. From planning a budget to a home inspection, those who come prepared are more likely to succeed. 

It's never too early to plan ahead

The preparations should start as soon as a person decides it is time to look for a new home, according to U.S. News and World Report. This is especially important when it comes to finances, including a credit check.

Any mistakes take a while to fix, the media outlet reported. As early as 18 months ahead of time is a great place to start looking through all of that monetary data. Then, the mortgage shopping process can begin. The final number here will dictate how much a person can afford for a home, which will help narrow down the search parameters.

In addition, homebuyers have to be flexible, U.S. News and World Report noted. Some elements of a house are permanent, so it is worth remembering which problems are deal-breakers, and which ones aren't. A realistic approach will prevent any surprises, and it could also speed the entire process along.

Buyers should use a home inspection

A home inspection is a complete check of the structure and components of a house, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors. This includes heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as plumbing, the attic, roof and many other elements.

Having this step completed before closing on a home can be a smart idea for buyers. It will decrease the chance of any unfortunate surprises, the news source noted. What's more, a detailed report will allow buyers to learn everything there is to know about the structure, including large repair bills or a builder mistake. After the inspection is completed, buyers will feel more confident either walking away, moving forward or renegotiating the asking price.

Perhaps most importantly, a house cannot fail an inspection, ASHI explained. The professional is only there to provide an unbiased assessment of the property, highlighting which components need more attention. That way, buyers will understand the complete financial investment in a new house.