Low housing inventory means heated competition for buyers in Burbank, California, located north of downtown Los Angeles. Burbank is one of the most in-demand residential areas in the San Fernando Valley right now for a number of reasons. With a low crime rate and a highly-rated school district, the area is great for families. Meanwhile, employees at Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, CBS and NBC love that the studios are all headquartered just a few blocks apart on the southeast side of the city.

"Burbank is a good place to live if you like restaurants and nightlife; but at the same time, it's peaceful and quiet," says Magda Mavyan of Hall & Chambers Real Estate. "It's a beautiful place to live and a good place to raise a family."

But buyers need to act quickly and efficiently if they hope to purchase their dream home for a good price. To help buyers navigate this fast-moving landscape, we've contacted top real estate agents in Burbank to ask for the low-down on the this popular market and some advice on gaining a foothold.

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House or Condo? The average three-bed, two-bath home in Burbank starts at around $650,000 – that's a pretty big mortgage for entry-level buyers. Mavyan recommends that first-time buyers look for something that costs less than what they have been approved for.

"Buyers often set a price limit for themselves, and then end up bidding way above that limit," she explains. "I advise them to go easy on themselves for their first home. Build some equity in a condo. They can always sell it in a few years."

Two-bed, two-bath condos start at around $400,000, which makes a huge difference to a thrifty buyer. And new developments could stem the meteoric price surge for now, while adding future value to the neighborhood. Mavyan estimates that prices might rise another 5 to 8 percent this year.

Best buys? One of Burbank's fastest-selling areas is in the foothills north of Interstate 5. "There are more schools, newer condo developments and people love the views," says Artin Sarkissian of The Art in Real Estate.

Buyers are also paying top dollar on the city's south end, the backyard of the production studios. This area offers easy access to Griffith Park, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles.

That leaves some room for good buys in the middle of the city near areas like Downtown Burbank. "Houses close to the train and Burbank's commercial area are more affordable. You get some older retirees who prefer walking, but not the majority of buyers," reveals Mavyan. Buyers looking for a smaller-town feel and lots of shops and restaurants within easy walking or biking distance might prefer this neighborhood anyway.

The Hollywood Burbank Airport (formerly the Burbank Bob Hope Airport), on the west end of the city, gives buyers a little price break, too. But before buyers balk at the idea of headache-inducing airport noise, Sarkissian reveals a little-known secret that could turn them around: "The airport authority pays to soundproof the windows of homes near the airport. I've seen houses there with four-pane windows."

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Prepare your offer before you shop. Sarkissian says competition is stiff. He's seen homes get 15 offers in Burbank, which makes it essential for buyers have their ducks in a row – not only what they're willing to spend, but also the terms. Sellers are looking for all-cash offers and no-appraisal contingency offers, so buyers should be prepared to make these decisions before they even start looking.

"Make sure you're pre-qualified and have all of the finances and paperwork ready," Sarkissian advises. "Go in as strong as you can and give the best offer you can. You only get one chance to make an offer."

Don't wait to make an offer. Most Burbank homes sell within one to three months of being listed, but agents with some scruples advise sellers to make a decision once there are two or three offers on the table. Mavyan lets us in on her rationale: "Sellers want to keep their property on the market to create competition and get a lot of offers, but then often the property won't appraise as high as the offer, which becomes a problem."

Buyers who are interested in a house should make their offers immediately to get into this first-up queue before the seller takes the home off the market. And avoid the houses that already have a high number of offers, as they have probably been bid up well past their appraisal value.

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Be reasonable. Mavyan is not afraid to advise clients that their offer is too high. "Buyers have to take time to make a decision and not be in a rush," she says. "They get scared of losing the property and overbid."

Instead, slow and steady wins the race. After all, Mavyan notes, "Buyers aren't just hiring us to get them into a house, they are hiring us to give them advice about buying. It's not always about making the quick sale."

Looking for a real estate agent in Burbank? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.

Tags: real estate, housing market, Los Angeles, home prices, existing home sales

Emily Manthei is a freelance travel and real estate writer for U.S. News and an international short filmmaker. She has contributed travel, lifestyle and film review pieces to USA Today, SF Gate, eHow, Trip101, Los Angeles Downtown News, Entertainment Voice and brand new parenting site Opeeqo. Her screenwriting and filmmaking have taken her on documentary and narrative projects in Romania, El Salvador, Bangladesh and London, to name just a few. She currently splits her time between Berlin and Los Angeles. Find more of her work on her website or on Twitter.