An improved economy has stimulated demand for housing, but the supply of homes for sale has lagged, making it harder for shoppers to find affordable properties, said Daren Blomquist, a senior vice president with Attom Data Solutions, which tracks property trends.
One factor in the tight supply, Mr. Blomquist said, is that people are holding onto their homes longer than they once did. Investors who bought homes during the recession are earning rental income and are not in a rush to sell, while some owners still cannot sell because they remain underwater on their mortgages — meaning they owe more than the homes are worth. The average home seller these days has owned the house for about eight years, he said, compared with about four years before the recession.
Another factor, according to Attom’s data: fewer foreclosures. Nearly 10 years after the financial crisis, foreclosures are at prerecession levels in many areas, reducing another source of homes for sale.
All that means that competition is fierce in some markets, especially for lower- and midpriced homes, and home shoppers must be nimble. Lynn Johnson, a broker with Bamboo Realty in bustling Raleigh, N.C., said buyers must understand that they do not have days to mull an offer. “They have to be ready to pull the trigger if they find the right house,” she said.
Buyers must also be prepared to put more cash down when they place a property under contract, she said. In the past, Ms. Johnson said, shoppers could expect to put down $500 as a “due diligence” deposit to the seller, which they would expect to lose if they found a house they liked better and walked…