Valley home prices hit highest level in 8 years, but sales are flat

Valley home prices hit highest level in 8 years, but sales are flat…

After spiking two months ago, homes sales in the San Fernando Valley flattened out during April, but the median price still hit its highest level in eight years, a trade group said Thursday.

Last month the median price of a previously owned home increased 7 percent from a year earlier to $555,000 and rose $18,500 from March, said the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

It’s the first time since 2007 the price has been above $550,000, the association said. But prices began flattening out in May of last year after a long run of double-digit year-over-year gains.

“That suggests the pace of price increases is slowing, which would be welcome news to prospective home buyers,” said association president Gaye Rainey.

The April median was 15 percent below the record $655,000 set in June 2007.

Last month there were 543 homes sales, three fewer than a year earlier and six more than in March.

The condominium median price last month increased 12 percent from a year ago to $350,000, the highest in eight years, the association said. The condo price is 16 percent below its record high of $415,000 hit in February 2006.

Condo sales were flat in April, totaling 181 units, two less than a year earlier. Sales rose 8 percent from 167 in March.

Sales and prices continue to react to a familiar nemesis: scant inventory.

At the end of last month the number of homes and condos listed for sale had dipped 3.5 percent from a year earlier to 1,543 properties, the association said. That’s just a 2.1-month supply at the current sales pace. A six-month supply would create a balanced market in which neither buyer nor seller holds an advantage.

“The lack of supply limits sales. Even though the April inventory hit its highest level in five months, it still is not enough to satisfy demand,” said association CEO Jim Link. “As resale prices rise, affordability becomes an issue for buyers, even with interest rates still extremely low.”

One reason prices continue to make gains is there is strong activity in the upper price ranges, but sales taper off at less expensive price points, the association said.

That’s because foreclosure sales and short sales have been flushed through the market.

 

Michael Jackson’s Neverland property on sale for $100M

Michael Jackson’s Neverland property on sale for $100M

The Santa Ynez Valley property that once served as the late pop star’s home and personal fantasyland is being listed at $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The 2,700-acre ranch featuring a train station, six-bedroom house and 50-seat movie theater has been in limbo since Jackson’s death in 2009.

Jackson paid $19.5 million for the property in 1988 and rechristened it Neverland after Peter Pan’s island dwelling.

The real estate company Colony Capital LLC bailed out Jackson in 2008 after he defaulted on the $24.5 million that he owed on the property.

Jackson distanced himself from Neverland after his 2005 acquittal on charges that he molested children at the ranch and opted to live elsewhere.

 

California pending home sales register first annual increase in nearly two years, C.A.R. reports

REALTORS® say improving economic conditions and buyer urgency point to better market in 2015

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pending home sales posted higher on a year-over-year basis for the first time since January 2013 and as expected, declined from the previous month due primarily to a seasonal slowdown toward the end of the year, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said today.

Additionally, with the specter of a better economy, greater job growth, and increasing household formation, C.A.R.’s new Market Pulse Survey found that many REALTORS® expect market conditions to improve in 2015, as does C.A.R.

Pending home sales data:

  • Pending sales were up 2.6 percent from the 69.1 index recorded in December 2013.  The yearly increase was better than the six-month average of -4.3 percent from June 2014 to November 2014.
  • California pending home sales dropped in December, with the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* falling 21.9 percent from 90.7 in November to 70.9 in December, based on signed contracts.  The monthly decline was in line with the seasonal slowdown in pending sales observed at the end of the year for the last two years.

Equity and distressed housing market data:

  • The share of equity sales – or non-distressed property sales – dipped for the second straight month in December.  Equity sales made up 89.8 percent of all sales in December, down from 90.5 percent recorded in November.  Equity sales have been more than 80 percent of total sales since July 2013 and have risen at or near 90 percent since mid-2014. Equity sales made up 84.4 percent of sales in December 2013.
  • Conversely, the combined share of all distressed property sales edged up in December, up from 9.5 percent in November to 10.2 percent in December. Distressed sales were down 33 percent from a year ago, when the share was 15.6 percent.

REALTOR® Market Pulse Survey**:

  • In the fourth quarter of 2014, the vast majority (87 percent) of REALTORS® expected market conditions to either improve or stay the same over the next year.
  • More REALTORS® (61 percent) closed a transaction in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to the first quarter (53 percent).
  • In an indication of stabilizing home prices, fewer homes (24 percent) sold above asking price in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to 46 percent in the first quarter.
  • Homes selling below asking price rose from 19 percent in the first quarter of 2014 to 48 percent in the fourth quarter, indicating home sellers’ expectations moved more in line with buyers’ expectations toward the end of the year and competition between sellers attempting to appeal to affordability strapped home buyers increased.
  • More than half (58 percent) of properties received multiple offers in the fourth quarter of 2014, down from 69 percent in the first quarter.

Charts (click links to open):

Share of Distressed Sales to Total Sales
(Single-family)

Type of Sale Dec. 2014 Nov. 2014 Dec. 2013
Equity Sales 89.8% 90.5% 84.4%
Total Distressed Sales 10.2% 9.5% 15.6%
     REOs 4.7% 4.3% 5.1%
     Short Sales 5.1% 4.8% 10.0%
     Other Distressed Sales (Not Specified) 0.4% 0.4% 0.5%
All Sales 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Single-family Distressed Home Sales by Select Counties
(Percent of total sales)

County Dec. 2014 Nov. 2014 Dec. 2013
Alameda 3% 3% 9%
Amador 10% 7% 35%
Butte 18% 13% 18%
Calaveras 14% 19% NA
Contra Costa 6% 3% 7%
El Dorado 14% 7% 19%
Fresno 19% 16% 24%
Glenn 40% 29% 27%
Humboldt 14% 12% 14%
Kern 13% 10% 19%
Kings 26% 17% 28%
Lake 20% 19% 34%
Los Angeles 9% 9% 17%
Madera 13% 14% 20%
Marin 2% 2% 8%
Mariposa 7% 10% 40%
Mendocino 25% 13% 27%
Merced 10% 17% 22%
Monterey 9% 9% 20%
Napa 3% 7% 10%
Orange 6% 5% 10%
Placer 7% 8% 13%
Plumas 8% 11% NA
Riverside 12% 13% 17%
Sacramento 13% 12% 19%
San Benito 8% 3% 15%
San Bernardino 14% 16% 22%
San Diego 6% 6% 5%
San Joaquin 13% 11% 23%
San Luis Obispo 6% 6% 7%
San Mateo 2% 1% 6%
Santa Clara 3% 2% 7%
Santa Cruz 2% 6% 15%
Shasta 20% 19% 24%
Siskiyou 26% 24% 24%
Solano 11% 9% 22%
Sonoma 6% 5% 15%
Stanislaus 12% 10% 22%
Sutter 20% 21% 32%
Tulare 16% 17% 26%
Yolo 10% 8% 18%
Yuba 22% 16% 31%
California 10% 10% 16%

NA = not available

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*Note:  C.A.R.’s pending sales information is generated from a survey of more than 70 associations of REALTORS® and MLSs throughout the state.  Pending home sales are forward-looking indicators of future home sales activity, offering solid information on future changes in the direction of the market.  A sale is listed as pending after a seller has accepted a sales contract on a property.  The majority of pending home sales usually becomes closed sales transactions one to two months later.  The year 2008 was used as the benchmark for the Pending Homes Sales Index.  An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2008.

**C.A.R.’s Market Pulse Survey is a monthly online survey to gather California REALTORS®’ sentiment about their last closed transaction and business activity for the previous month and the last year.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States with 165,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

SOURCE CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS

Divide Between Homeowners and Renters Growing

For homeowners in Southern California, the housing recovery has been pretty kind. For renters, not so much.

New figures highlight the growing gap between owners and renters in the Southland: Many homeowners are capitalizing on low interest rates to push down their monthly payment while renters are shelling out larger shares of their income to stay afloat.

And the ranks of renters are growing.

The data, released Thursday by the Census Bureau, show that the median monthly mortgage payment for a homeowner in metro Los Angeles — L.A. and Orange counties — was $2,241 last year. Adjusted for inflation, that figure has fallen 17.7% since 2007. And the share of homeowners spending at least 35% of their income on housing — a common barometer for affordability — has fallen sharply in the last few years to 30%.

Meanwhile, median rent in the area has outpaced inflation by 2.3% since 2007, and the share of renters who spend 35% or more of their income on housing has climbed to just above half. That large burden is partly a function of higher prices for apartments, housing watchers say, and partly of incomes that have been stagnant for years.

“This trend has been going on for some time. Generally it’s an issue of income,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the tenants group the Coalition for Economic Survival. “Renters are a little younger or very low income. They’re earning less, and their rent burden is increasing.”

By some measures, metro L.A. is the nation’s least-affordable rental market. A study issued last month by UCLA made that claim, noting that although rents and home prices in metro L.A. nearly match costlier markets such as San Francisco and New York, typical incomes in metro L.A. are significantly lower.

That finding was reinforced by Thursday’s census numbers, which found median household income in metro Los Angeles last year was $58,869, 10.5% less than metro New York and 26% less than in the Bay Area. And although incomes in metro L.A. grew 1.4% last year, they’re still down 10% from 2007 when adjusted for inflation.

“There has been a [long-term] problem of both decreasing real income and increasing real rent,” the study’s co-author, UCLA urban planning professor Paul Ong, wrote in an e-mail.

Adding to the challenge: more demand for rental units, including from former homeowners who lost their properties to foreclosure. Thanks in part to the mortgage crisis and in part to young adults putting off buying, the region’s homeownership rate has fallen from 52% in 2007 to 48% today, and the number of owner-occupied homes has dropped by 115,000.

Some of those houses have been bought by investors and converted to rental units. But construction of apartments, Ong noted, hasn’t kept up with the growing demand

There has been “low and uneven construction of rental units. Too few at affordable levels,” he wrote. The “standard economic dynamic of increasing demand and inelastic supply.”

Those who managed to own a home through the downturn, though, have fared well because of several years of near-record-low interest rates. Since 2009, about 28 million mortgages have been refinanced into lower rates, said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at lending giant Freddie Mac.

A borrower who took out a $400,000 loan in 2007 with 6% interest could save more than $700 a month by refinancing to 4%, according to mortgage website HSH.com.

“We’ve had a couple of years of almost unprecedented low interest rates now,” Kiefer said. “Millions and millions of households have locked in those rates and lowered their monthly payments.”

In addition, home values have climbed 40% in the last two years, nearly back to pre-crash levels in parts of the Southland, and many homeowners who weathered the downturn are now in relatively healthy financial shape, he said.

For many renters, the prospect of just holding on to what they’ve got can be daunting. But that’s what Maritza Guzman is hoping to do.

Guzman has watched over the last year as the East Hollywood apartment building where she and her mother have lived for 22 years has emptied out. New owners are planning a major overhaul, she said, and offering longtime tenants — many in rent-stabilized units — cash to leave. All but four apartments are now vacant, and Guzman said she thought hard about taking the $30,000 she and her mom were offered. But she looked around, saw nothing on the market even close to the less than $900 a month they pay now, and realized that the money wouldn’t last more than a couple of years.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.

And, although she would rather own than rent, even if she combined that $30,000 check with her mother’s Social Security and income from her job as a preschool teacher and three other part-time gigs, Guzman said, there’s no way they could afford to buy a house right now.

“In L.A.?” she said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

So Guzman is hoping to reach an agreement with her landlord for an apartment in the building after renovations are complete, to hold on as a renter as long as she can.

tim.Logan@latimes.com

Twitter: @bytimlogan

Will the housing market stay this hot? Some think so…

If you tried to buy a home in Phoenix a year ago, you probably would have been able to land it for well under the asking price.

Those days are gone. In a city that was hit hard after the housing bubble burst in 2007, you’re more likely to encounter a bidding war for that split-level ranch on the cul-de-sac you had your eye on.

Prices have leapt 20 percent in the last year in Phoenix. Real estate agent Tucker Blaylock says they will keep rising as long as interest rates remain near historic lows, thanks to the Federal Reserve.

“You can borrow money so cheap it’s really pushing prices up,” he said. “A year or two ago, a buyer could bid 20- or 30-thousand under the list price and have a shot at getting it. Now sellers want list, or in some cases they get multiple offers and it’ll go above list price.”

It’s not just Phoenix. The list of the hottest markets reads like the housing boom of the mid-2000s. In the past 12 months home prices are up 19 percent in Las Vegas. California hot spots include San Francisco (up 25 percent), San Diego (up 17 percent) and Los Angeles (up 19 percent.)

Nationwide, that momentum is dragging potential buyers off the fence, which is in turn feeding the higher prices, the experts say. Despite rising mortgage rates, demand for homes is surging with little sign of the bubble bursting anytime soon.

The latest monthly data from the widely followed Case-Shiller index showed home prices in May jumped 12.2 percent in the past year — the biggest yearly jump since March 2006 — supporting economists’ views that the housing sector is one of the brightest spots for the economy.

In a handful of metro areas, housing is looking downright “bubbly,” according to Robert Shiller, co-founder of the index. “The cities that bubbled in the past are bubbling again,” he told CNBC. “To me, it’s seems partly psychological. They’ve seen it before and they’re ready for it again.”

But unlike the historic mid-2000s bubble, there are signs the latest price surge is more sustainable. One is that the mix of buyers is shifting from bottom-feeding investors to homeowners who plan to stay awhile. In Phoenix, “hot money” investors are cooling to new purchases even as prices keep rising, said Blaylock.

“It scares the guys who have been flipping stuff in the 100-to 200-thousand-dollar range that now they’ll have to pay 350,” he said.

And unlike the last bubble, mortgage lenders are much choosier when reviewing loan applications than the days when just about anyone with a pulse was approved.

Prices are also rising because the supply of homes for sale is getting tighter. Banks have shed much of their backlog of foreclosed properties. A four-year drought in home building, which is now beginning to ease, cut deeply into the supply of new homes.

One negative is that increasing mortgage rates could throw cold water on some of the hot markets. The average fixed rate on a 30-year mortgage hit 4.31 percent last week, up nearly a full percentage point since January, according to Freddie Mac.

“Once you put a five in front of it, it’s a different ballgame,” said Blaylock. “People have been so trained to this 3-5 (percent) range that five seems high.”

But so far, the home sales data indicate that home buyers are taking the relatively higher rates in stride, especially investors with a short-term horizon. New home sales rose 8.3 percent in July, as builders reported continued strong increases in foot traffic. That put the pace of June sales nearly 40 percent above the same month last year.

“Higher mortgage rates don’t appear to be denting new home sales,” said Paul Diggle, a housing economist with Capital Economics.

Video: Robert Shiller, co-founder of the Case-Shiller Index, breaks down the latest numbers on housing and which cities are “bubbling up.”

That may be in part because, despite the recent jump in prices and mortgage rates, homes are still more affordable than they’ve been in decades, based on an index calculated by the National Association of Realtors. The index, which combines the impact of changes in home prices, mortgage rates and household incomes, has fallen sharply this year but still stands well above levels that typically have dampened home sales in the past.

While housing remain affordable by historical standards, the current recovery has left a large segment of U.S. households behind, including the more than 7 million whose homes were seized in the wave of foreclosures that followed the frenzy of reckless mortgage lending in the middle of the last decade.

The home ownership rate, which surged to 69.2 percent in 2004, has fallen back to 65 percent as of the second quarter, according to the latest Census data released Tuesday. The rate, now back to levels last seen in 1995, is expected to continue falling as more families move through a large backlog of pending foreclosures.

Many of those families are expected to remain renters, which has driven strong demand for new multi-family housing and strong rent increases in many markets.

To be sure, a continued rise in mortgage rates will eventually slow the climb in home sales and prices. But in the short term, the strong home price momentum is feeding on itself as buyers sitting on the sidelines fear paying higher prices by waiting.

“At least for the short term (prices) will probably continue to go up,” said Shiller. “For a flipper now who can get out in a year, it seems to me like a fairly safe bet.”

© 2013 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/housing-market-heats-demand-fuels-price-surge-6C10796230

Freddie Mac: 30-year mortgage leaps to 4.46%, highest since 2011

By E. Scott Reckard June 27, 2013, 8:07 a.m.

A huge surge in mortgage rates, which according to Freddie Mac has lifted the the benchmark 30-year loan to 4.46%, is the biggest weekly increase since the financial crisis set in, rate watchers say.

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, out Thursday morning, showed the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan jumping from 3.93% last week.

The 4.46% reading was the first to exceed the 4% mark since the week of March 22, 2012, and the highest since the week of July 28, 2011.

The average 15-year rate climbed to 3.5% from 3.04%, according to Freddie Mac, which polls lenders early each week about the terms they are offering to solid borrowers with 20% down payments.

The increase was triggered by expectations that the Federal Reserve would scale back its massive stimulus program, which involves buying $85 billion worth of Treasury notes and mortgage-backed securities per month.

Higher rates could restrain the heavy demand for housing that, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller survey, drove home prices in 20 U.S. cities up 12% in April, the biggest year-over-year gain in more than seven years.

That might not be such a bad thing, according to observers such as real estate consultant John Burns of Irvine. Housing markets, particularly in California, have begun to look overheated, he said, raising the prospect that another boom and bust cycle might be in the making.

“When home prices start rising 2% per month, which they have been in L.A., it becomes like a runaway train that you cannot stop,” Burns said. “Rising rates should cool the rate of price appreciation.”

Bankrate.com, which also monitors mortgage rates, said its survey showed the typical 30-year mortgage rate jumping from an average of 4.12% last week to 4.61% this week.

It was the biggest one-week increase since Lehman Bros., the big Wall Street firm, collapsed in 2008, ushering in the financial crisis, said Bankrate senior financial analyst Greg McBride.

The latest increase was “clearly an overreaction,” McBride said — but one that “shows how addicted to stimulus the markets are.”

FROM: LA TIMES

5-YEAR HIGH!

By Andrew Khouri June 25, 2013, 8:18 a.m.

New home sales surged more than expected last month, a good sign for a building sector that has an oversized role on the broader economy.

Sales of new single-family homes rose 2.1% from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 476,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was the highest rate since July 2008 and 29% more than May of last year.

Home values have risen sharply lately as buyers compete for few available homes. That lack of inventory and price growth has builders turning dirt and increasingly confident in the new home market.

That is not only good news for those in construction but also related industries such as lumber, and heating and air conditioning.

New home sales rose from April in all regions except the South, but were up across the nation compared with last year.

The median price for new homes in May was $263,900, down 2.8% from a month earlier.

Supply remains below average. If new homes continued to sell at the current rate there would be a supply of 4.1 months, unchanged since April.

Also on Tuesday, a leading home price index showed strong growth during April in the nation’s largest cities. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index rose 2.5% from March and 12.1% over the last year.

Because of the time it takes to build new homes, economists Patrick Newport and Stephanie Karol of IHS Global Insight said those sharp gains won’t ease soon.

“The shortages are likely to get larger before getting smaller, which means that home price gains in most cities and states are likely to remain strong for some time,” they said in an emailed analysis.

From: LA Times

Mortgage Rates on The Move

Mortgage rates moved to within a hair of the 4% barrier this week, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

The average rate for 30-year, fixed-rate loans rose 0.07 percentage point to 3.98%, and is up 0.63 percentage point since the week of May 2. Rates have not been this high since the week of April 12, 2012

“Fixed mortgage rates crept up further this week following a solid employment report for May,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The recent improvement in the employment picture should result in more home buying, which would pressure rates even higher. Rates have also been going up because the Federal Reserve has signaled that it might cut back on buying mortgage-backed securities. If that happens, lenders would likely charge higher rates to make the securities more attractive to other buyers.

As rate increases push up the cost of home ownership, the impact on the housing market will be slight, according to Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a mortgage information company.

REAL Trends Housing Market Report June 2013

Posted by Travis Saxton on Jun 11, 2013 in Housing Market Reports

The June 2013 report shows that the rate of housing sales increased strongly in May growing 13.5 percent from May 2012.  The annual rate of new and existing home sales for May 2013 was 5.984 million up from the 5.273 million recorded in May 2012.

The average price of homes sold increased by 7.5 percent in May 2013 compared to May 2012.

June 11, 2013 – The REAL Trends Housing Market Report showed that the combination of new and existing home sales in May 2013 continued to show strength across all regions in both unit sales and the average price of homes sold. The annualized rate of the combination of new and existing home sales increased to 5.984 million in May 2013 up from the 5.273 million recorded in May 2012.

The average price of homes sold in May 2013 was up 7.5 percent from the average price of homes sold in May 2012 marking the 14th consecutive month of increased home sale prices. 

Housing unit sales for May 2013 were up 18.1 percent in the Midwest, the strongest showing in the country. The next highest region was the South region at 16.8 percent, the West region was up 9.0 percent and the Northeast was up 7.0 percent.

The average price of homes sold in May 2013 increased 7.5 percent across the country, nearly the same increase as that recorded a month earlier. The West had the best results with the average price of homes sold increasing 13.2 percent followed by the South region at 8.6 percent and the Midwest at 8.5 percent.  The Northeast saw the lowest increase in average price at 2.2 percent.

“May 2013 sales of new and existing homes continued to show strength across all regions and are evidently shaking off the low inventories in most markets.  The two regions of the country with the lowest average sales prices, the South and Midwest, continue to outperform other regions in terms of unit sales increases.  The average price of homes sold was up solidly again due to supply and demand imbalances.  As this report and other housing indicators show the scarcity of inventory and buyer demand are creating a situation where prices are advancing at far greater rates than had been predicted due to high levels of housing affordability and restricted inventory,” said Steve Murray, editor of the REAL Trends Housing Market Report.

As Home Sales Heat Up Again, Buyers Must Resort to Cold Cash

As Home Sales Heat Up Again, Buyers Must Resort to Cold Cash…

By JENNIFER MEDINA and KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

Published: June 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Bidding wars sound almost quaint. These days, the only way for would-be buyers to secure a home, it often seems, is to offer all cash and be ready to do so within hours, not days.

Dick and Susan Yost had heavy competition while trying to buy a smaller home.

The bursting of last decade’s housing bubble feels like ancient history here, where first-time home buyers are competing with investors to get into single-family homes with prices approaching $1 million.

“It’s everyone from a kid out of law school to an investor from China, walking around with thousands to spend,” said Kameron Eliassian, a Los Angeles real estate agent. “I don’t know where it’s coming from, and I don’t care. Just show me proof that it’s there, and we’re good.”

After saving money for years, waiting for the residential real estate market to hit bottom, buyers all over the country appear eager to get back in, lured by low interest rates and the prospect of a good deal.

But with the number of homes for sale at historically low levels and large investors purchasing thousands of properties, buyers are facing a radically changed market and prices are quickly rising.

The percentage of homes bought with cash has shot up in many markets across the nation. Nearly a third of all homes purchased in Los Angeles during the first quarter of this year went for all cash, compared with just 7 percent in 2007. In Miami, 65 percent of homes sold were for cash deals, compared with 16 percent six years ago.

The prices on all-cash deals are also rising significantly. In Los Angeles, the median price on an all-cash home this year is about $351,000, compared with $230,000 in 2009. Over the same period, the median price over all increased to $410,000, up $85,000. In fact, last month, home prices in Southern California hit their highest level in the last five years.

All-cash buyers, typically investors eager to renovate and quickly resell or rent out homes, are making it more difficult for first-time buyers, who typically rely on mortgage loans that can take weeks or months to materialize. More California homes have been flipped in the last year than in any year since 2005.

And while Los Angeles may be a center of the frenzy, it is not an anomaly. Buyers in Boston are offering $100,000 more than the asking price or placing offers on homes they have spent only minutes in. In San Francisco, Miami and Phoenix, sellers are looking at dozens of offers within days of putting their home on the market, often accompanied by letters from would-be buyers professing their love for the property. New York City has seen similar drops in inventory, and prices have been rising steadily since 2009.

Shortly after Andres Alvarez, 36, got married last fall, he began to look for a home with his wife, figuring that their steady jobs, savings and good credit would make them the perfect buyers in Los Angeles. They were ready to spend $700,000. Their optimism deflated quickly.

“We thought we were the cream of the crop, but anything that was in our price range and move-in ready, there was this insane competition,” Mr. Alvarez said. They put in nearly a dozen bids, often losing to cash buyers, before finding a two-bedroom home for $650,000. “It might be a great time to buy, but it’s a horrible time to be a buyer,” he said.

Dick and Susan Yost can vouch for that. They wanted to downsize while leaving their home in Cambridge, Mass., to their son and his family. “We bid on eight places before we finally got one,” Mr. Yost said. “The worst we bid was $85,000 over the asking price, and we didn’t get it.”

Even unappealing homes, he said, had “people all over them.”

Still, there are plenty of skeptics wondering how long the sharp price increases can last.

“People are realizing we’ve probably hit bottom, but the kinds of spikes we’re seeing in places like California seems like history is repeating itself,” said Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac, which monitors residential sales. “That’s not sustainable for the long term, at least not for the regular home buyer, so I think there are some warning flags there.”

For agents who spent the last several years scrounging for business, the change is welcome. When Mr. Eliassian listed a three-bedroom home in the Hollywood Hills for $699,000 this year, he worried that the current renters would make it difficult to schedule prospective buyers. But with just two open houses — one meant only for other agents — nearly 300 people came through.

“I had to turn the phone off to avoid people asking to see the place,” Mr. Eliassian said.

Within the week, he had six offers, and the home sold for $745,000. He said he had represented and sold homes to more cash buyers in the last year than at any other time in his career.

Lewis Legon, a developer in Salem, Mass., jumped into the Boston market after he saw how many people were showing up at open houses. “It was like Times Square,” he said of one open house, at a property listed for $1.5 million. He beat out two dozen other bidders by offering $1.8 million in cash, not the first time he had made an all-cash offer.

“The first time I was ready to have a heart attack,” he said of all-cash buy. “But it makes you a more attractive buyer and helps you stand out.”

He also waived the inspection clause, an increasingly common practice. While offers have typically included appraisal clauses, allowing buyers to back out if the home was valued below what they were willing to pay, offers today are more likely to include escalation clauses, saying buyers will pay an additional amount over the highest bid.

“Buyers are taking a lot more risks than they ever would before,” said Dana DeSimone, a Boston real estate agent who called the current market an “insane asylum.” “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of waiving the inspection contingency on a 150-year-old brownstone until now.”

Now, agents say their biggest challenge is potential sellers who are wary of putting their home on the market because they fear they cannot find a place to buy.

Jeff and Lorena Leininger considered moving from their suburban Los Angeles home over the last several years, but they feared they would not get as much as they paid for it. But this year, with their youngest child getting ready for kindergarten, they decided it was time. Three days after showing the home, they had nine offers.

“It felt as crazy as it was back when we bought 10 years ago,” Mr. Leininger said. “But it was much worse on the other side. We would show up to an open house, and it was already sold. The clear message was: be ready to move fast or just get left out.”

Even in Florida, where the market was once swamped with foreclosures, there are signs of the latest boom, with cash purchases fueled in part by international investors and retirees awash in cash after selling their homes elsewhere.

Don Faught, a manager with Alain Pinel Realtors near San Francisco, said the current market is turning buyers to desperation, particularly because the turnaround has come so quickly.

“A year ago, people didn’t want a deal, they wanted a steal,” he said. “Sellers were listing homes for less than what they originally paid for them and offering all these concessions. Now, the only concessions are coming from the buyers.”

His office has begun to track the number of offers clients make before landing a property. The current record: 27 offers, nearly all at or above asking price.