A home buyer prospect checks out a possibility.

First-time home buyers accounted for less than a third of home purchases last year, the lowest level in nearly three decades, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Wall Street Journal staffer Chris Kirkham reports that escalating prices and tightening availability of homes point to the challenges facing many of the largest U.S. real-estate markets as the crucial spring selling season heats up. Kirkham notes that the inventory scarcity and competition are particularly daunting for first time buyers. He writes:

With mortgage rates at historic lows, unemployment at its lowest in eight years and housing inventories shriveling, particularly on the lower end of the spectrum, U.S. housing markets are becoming less affordable compared with historical norms.

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