Flippers, more lax lending standards, a pervasive inventory shortage, and a growing lack of affordability are to blame, they said.
"It's a harbinger of a bubble," said
He notes that in April, overall median prices were below peak prices during the housing boom, but still have risen considerably from their recessionary lows in 2010.
Including single-family, condos and townhouses, prices in
Still, prices are 38 percent below their peak in
"It's a warning flag," Blomquist said. "Properties are not necessarily selling for what people can pay."
Institutional investors, such as hedge funds and banks, are starting to do multi-property transactions, which can consist of single-family homes, condos or vacant lots, bought either from banks or from each other.
Blomquist was one of a panel of experts at the
"They're falsely inflating prices," he said. "It's a problem -- and what happened leading up to the last boom.
"The whole greed factor is starting to kick in," he said. "We're suffering from short-term memory loss."
Most of this activity is happening in entry-level neighborhoods like
Lenders also are loosening guidelines as to who they will lend to, he said.
"It resembles a lot of what was going on in 2005 and 2006," he said.
But not all neighborhoods have seen the same level of increases. In some communities, like Aviana, they have stabilized, but in others -- notably the Orange Blossom corridor and the
Eriksson said it's difficult to pinpoint which sales are being done between investors because in many cases such sales are private and done with cash.
"We don't see them on the MLS," she said.
Meanwhile, frantic run-ups in prices are happening in desirable, modestly priced communities popular with both investors and homebuyers.
Eriksson discovered this about two weeks ago when she tried to buy a home priced in the low
"It's hard to compete," she said.
A boost in the housing stock, particularly on the lower end, would help ease the problem. But many builders are targeting move-up buyers, who have equity and can pay cash, rather than first-time buyers, said
Hunter said traffic has been strong in new home communities in
Particularly hard-hit are first-time buyers, who besides having no equity also are burdened with loan debt and a low-paying entry-level job.
"They're being shoved out of the market," he said.
Many are becoming renters instead, said
Nationwide, rent affordability is at an all-time low, he said, grabbing 30 percent of the renter's income.
"Market dynamics are not normal," he said.
Of course, not everyone sees a housing bubble on the horizon.
Florida Realtor's chief economist
However, the rampant speculation driven by subprime lending that helped inflate the last housing bubble isn't a big factor right now, he said.
Moreover, those investing in
FreddieMac chief economist
"Increases we have seen so far are eye-popping," he said.
And with interest rates up by about a percentage point since this time last year, and projected to rise more in the future, it's ever harder for buyers who need a loan to compete with those, like investors, who can afford to pay cash.
While investors have been beefing up their portfolios over the past few years, so far they haven't been dumping them in bulk, Nothaft said. That's helped add helium to home prices nationwide.
But at some point, home prices reach a point where investors decide to take profits, or escape what they see as an overheated market, Nothaft explained.
So if home prices keep going up at double-digit rates over the coming year, inducing investors to sell, "I'll be more concerned," he said.
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