(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.

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

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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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