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Renting, buying or selling a home right now? Here's what you need to know

NBC News' Stephanie Ruhle explains what to think about if you want to come out ahead in today's real estate market.

More than a year into the pandemic, the housing market is still changing, with houses selling above listing price and new inventory getting harder to find.

Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent, stopped by TODAY to explain what potential homebuyers or sellers need to know as they deal with the ever-changing environment.

Is now a good time to buy a home?

Ruhle said that since housing inventory is "super tight" right now, with the number of homes for sale at record lows, it can be hard to buy a home right now. If you are looking to move, it helps to be aware of a few key things:

Ruhle recommends checking the "actual selling prices" of homes, not just the listing prices.

"Some homes are getting really high cash offers, and you'll want to know that going into it," she said.

It also helps to know your budget — and your limit. Try looking for homes below your budget so that you can afford to bid higher, and if you're able to go over budget, know just how high you're willing to go.

Since homes are going fast, Ruhle recommends not wasting your time on ones you don't love. "Know what you want, and ignore what doesn't fit your criteria," she said.

What about selling a house?

A tight market for buyers means it's "truly a seller's market right now," according to Ruhle, with homes going for "sometimes tens of thousands of dollars over the list prices."

Ruhle said that if you are looking to sell, you should have a plan in place for where you'll be moving to.

"It is very possible that your home will sell quickly, and you don't want to be crashing in a hotel while you compete for a new place," she said.

Ruhle also recommends giving some thought to your "digital curb appeal," or how your home looks online. Many people use virtual tours, which can include photos or 3-D modeling, to take a look at a home these days, and it's important to make sure that your house looks just as good online as it does in person.

Finally, make sure you're being realistic about your home's value.

"Lots of homes are selling above list price, but price your home to sell," Ruhle said.

What do record-low interest rates mean for refinancing?

Refinancing rates have been hovering in the 3% range, which Ruhle noted was "very low." While they have started to rise just a little bit, they're still very favorable for most homeowners.

If you are thinking about refinancing — which Ruhle said is "like taking out a new mortgage on your house" — make sure you take some time to think through the financial ramifications and other factors. Make sure that the lower monthly payment will be worth the additional fees that come along with refinancing, and be sure you intend on staying in your home for a while: Ruhle said that the "standard guidance" advises staying in a home for at least two years to make refinancing worth it.

"You might be able to get a really good deal right now," Ruhle said. "Shop around for the best rates, don't just take the first one you get."

What about renters?

Rental prices are increasing in most of the country: Ruhle noted that in Phoenix, rents are up by as much as 80%. While you might not be able to save on the monthly rent, Ruhle recommends trying to negotiate concessions if you're starting a new lease.

"If you are dealing with higher rents than you expected, concessions are a great way to get the most bang for your buck," Ruhle said. "That's the free parking, gym access, even a month off your rent that you can ask for if you can't get the monthly price you are looking for."

If you are one of the many American renters struggling with rental insecurity, look into city and state resources. New funding was recently approved by Congress to help those in need.