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The pandemic pushed the hunt for a first-time home and for a home with more space to uncharted extremes. Low mortgage interest rates spurred buyer hopes of finding a bargain but they often found themselves bidding against multiple buyers in a fiercely competitive market that sent prices soaring.

"The very nature of the pandemic, through the health implications, social distancing, and need to isolate, has really brought a central focus on the importance of home for most Americans," says George Ratiu, senior economist at "In a sense, it has elevated real estate markets as a centerpiece of our lives."

But this newfound obsession with homes has created severe stress points, Ratiu says. "Even with more sellers coming to market, we are undersupplied on the new homes front significantly."

Still, there may be hope for some normalization on the horizon. While prices aren't expected to come tumbling down, experts believe the market will loosen up a bit. As more people are vaccinated and can socialize again, more sellers will feel comfortable listing their homes. And, just maybe, buyers may no longer be pressured to do things that over a year ago would have seemed ludicrous: waiving inspections, agreeing to pay closing costs, and sometimes buying homes across the country via video calls, sight unseen.

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