Buying a home has turned into a game of Jeopardy!: If you don't act with lightning speed, you lose.
U.S. homes that sold in April – meaning final contracts were signed – were listed an average of just 64 days earlier, the fastest turnaround since the housing crash and recession from 2007 to 2009, according to real estate research firm Trulia. That's down from the previous low of 71 days last July and 77 days in April 2017.
In April 2010, houses languished for 137 days before sales were completed.
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"Things are moving quickly," says Trulia housing economist Felipe Chacon. "You need to have your ducks in a row."
A strong job market that's fueling demand and near-record low supplies of homes for sale is forcing house hunters to make offers quickly – sometimes sight unseen. There was a four-month supply of homes on the market in April – the time it would take to exhaust the existing housing stock if no other units were added -- compared to a normal six-month inventory, according to the National Association of Realtors
Keep in mind that homes were actually on the market for a much shorter average of 26 days in April, which is also a post-recession low. That's the time it took for a house to be listed and an offer to be made and accepted. Then comes the inspection, appraisal and loan approval process, which sometimes results in renegotiated offers and canceled sales. Trulia analyzed time-to-closing data to provide a more accurate reading of how long it takes to sell a home.
• Seattle. It's taking just 36 days from listing to sale. In April, home prices were up 19.5% from a year earlier in the technology hub that's home to giants such as Microsoft and Amazon. Strict zoning regulations make it harder to build new houses, limiting supply.
• San Jose, Calif. Time to sale: 36 days. This Silicon Valley epicenter was the most competitive housing market in the country in March, with 83.2% of homes sold above list price, according to Redfin. Home prices are up 22% in the past year.
• San Francisco. Time to sale: 36 days. It's the most expensive housing market in California with the median price topping $1.3 million, up 13.7% from a year ago, according to Trulia. The nosebleed prices are forcing out many residents, but those choosing to stay are snapping up homes.
• Oakland, Calif. Time to sale: 38 days. The somewhat more affordable market is benefiting from its status as a bedroom community to San Francisco. Home prices are actually down 6.2% annually but still up 50.5% the past five years.
• Denver. Time to sale: 41 days. Another technology hotbed that has seen home prices climb 10% the past year.
In other cities, buyers have the edge and can often take their sweet time before making a bid. Here are the five metro areas where it's taking longest to sell homes.
• Syracuse, N.Y. Time to sale: 144 days. Among the nation's 100 largest metro areas, it ranked dead last in economic growth from 2010 to 2015, according to the Brookings Institution. Home prices are up 3.5% the past year.
• Long Island, N.Y. Time to sale: 132 days. Prices are up a respectable 5.8% the past year but luxury homes may take longer to sell.
• New York, N.Y. Time to sale: 128 days. The city is beset by a glut of luxury homes. Also, the new tax law limits deductions of interest and taxes on higher-priced houses. Prices are up 5.9% the past year.
• Miami. Time to sale: 115 days. Jobs are growing but many are in the lower-paying tourism industry, Chacon says. And luxury homes linger on the market.
• Pittsburgh. Time to sale: 99 days. The population has edged down in recent years and housing prices have been stable with little volatility. Prices are up 5.1% the past year.