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Buying a home is a lot like running a race: Once a listing goes live, buyers have to sprint off the starting block before throngs of other buyers start bidding. Talk about stressful!

What if there were a way to buy a house before it's officially on the market? Well, there is—and it can help you snag your dream house long before your competition even knows it exists. Want to get ahead of the curve? Here are some secrets for beating the crowds.

Read more: How to Buy a House Before It Officially Hits the Market

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Summer is peak season for home selling—but also for barbecues, vacations, and long, lazy beach days. In other words, there are lots of things to distract even the most diligent would-be buyers. And that’s not even counting those dog days when it’s too hot to even venture out to view homes.

But for home sellers who are eager to drum up an offer before Labor Day, having their sale sidelined isn't an option. And luckily, there's plenty you can do to lure buyers through your door. Check out these five smart tips for getting buyers to brave the heat and squeeze your house into their summer schedule.

Read more: 5 Home-Selling Tactics That Sizzle During Summer

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Which real estate documents should you keep after buying a home? After all, you don't want to have to file all of it if you don't have to; but you also don't want to chuck something crucial. Your closing company is required by law to keep a record of your closing documents, so that's a good fallback in case you misplace yours. Still, it's smart for you to keep important documents on hand—particularly if, later on, you need to file a claim against the seller or your professional representation team (i.e., your real estate agent, home inspector, or mortgage lender). Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but it’s wise to be prepared.

So, of the hundreds of documents you’ll encounter during the home-buying process, here are the ones you should keep—and why.

Read more: 8 Real Estate Documents to Keep—and What Happens If You Don't

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With graduation season in full swing, many may be pondering a change in their living quarters. Some may be moving out of Mom and Dad's house into dorms, or maybe out of dorms into their own apartments. But what if you're ready to take an even bigger step—moving out of a rental into a home you can call your own? Buying a house, after all, is a great way to put down roots and build wealth (since homes tend to appreciate so you can sell later for a profit). But purchasing property isn't a simple process, so you should make sure you're prepared.

So, how do you know if you’re ready to move from an apartment to a house? Ask yourself these questions below to get a sense of where you're at—or what you have to do to transition easily into home-buying mode once the time is right.

Read more: Ready to Graduate From Renting to Owning a Home?

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If you're thinking about buying your first home, that pesky down payment has probably kept you awake more than a few nights. We get it—while a pre-approval is crucial for determining your buying power, it's the down payment that shows you mean business. But saving up is hard. In a study conducted by NerdWallet, 44% of respondents said a lack of a down payment was the roadblock keeping them from buying a home. Making things even worse? Your well-meaning friends and family have probably given you at least one piece of well-meaning, but ill-informed advice, leaving you in more of a blind panic than you need to be.

We're not saying that saving for a down payment will be a cake walk, but separating fact from fiction can go a long way. Here's the truth you need to know.

Read more: 6 Down Payment Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately

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Selling your home? Then you've likely had that rude awakening where a real estate agent tours your home and breaks some tough news: Your house needs work before it goes on the market. For starters, you'll have to fix the boiler. And paint. And replace those outdated cabinets ... the list might go on and on.

Given that all these tweaks cost money, you might wonder: Do I have to do everything? 

Read more: Selling Your Home? Relax!

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