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For most Americans, owning a home is now a distant dream

(CBS News) -- Home prices across the U.S. are surging, while a shortage of houses for sale has resulted in cut-throat competition for those in the market to buy a property. That confluence of trends has taken the dream of homeownership well beyond the means of middle-class Americans, who are increasingly up against higher-income buyers for a smaller pool of homes.

Nationwide, there are only about 250,000 homes currently for sale that are considered affordable for households with between $75,000 and $100,000 in annual income — a sharp decline from the roughly 656,000 available homes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent analysis by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found.

This means there are now about 65 households in that income bracket for one listing, up from 24 households in 2019.

In many cases, it's also no longer enough for a prospective buyer to come prepared with a downpayment and a pre-approved mortgage. About 30% of homes were bought with all-cash offers in 2021, up from about 25% in 2020, according to real estate firm Redfin. In some cities, such as West Palm Beach and Naples, Florida, more than 50% of purchases were all-cash deals. Sellers are demanding that buyers forego contingencies, including for financing and inspections.

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