Housing: The One Market Where Cash Is Increasingly King

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

NOTD - 25%

That’s the percentage of homes sold in April that went to buyers paying in all cash, the highest share in more than four years and the latest sign of just how competitive the U.S. housing market is.

The share of homes bought upfront with no mortgage or other loans to complicate the sale hasn’t been this high since February 2017. It’s up from a pandemic-era low of 15% last April and 19% just three months ago, according to data released Friday by the National Association of Realtors.

Buyers wanting more living space and hoping to take advantage of low mortgage rates have been snapping up homes during the pandemic, pushing sale prices to record highs and resorting to increasingly creative ways to get a leg up with sellers swamped with offers. This fiercely competitive housing market, made more intense by investors and second-home buyers, has also made it increasingly common to bid above the list price and even forego the home inspection in the past year.

After soaring to a 14-year high last year, the monthly volume of home sales is now dropping off despite the best efforts of house hunters. The inventory of homes on the market hasn’t kept pace with demand, and these shortages will likely continue in the short-term as the scarcity and mounting cost of materials like lumber hampers the construction of new homes, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.