The spring home-buying season has kicked off after a year of surprise twists and turns for the real estate market. After a sharp drop-off in interest at the start of the pandemic, Americans newly attuned to work-from-home comforts returned their attention to home-buying with vigor. 

Soon they began snapping up property, sending prices higher in every major metropolitan area in the nation tracked by the National Association of Realtors. At the end of 2020, home prices were about 15% higher than a year earlier, before the pandemic shuttered the U.S. economy, according to NAR data. 

And in about 88% of metropolitan regions, home prices experienced double-digit price growth.

Against that backdrop, some cities are witnessing outsized demand from homebuyers, as area prices are being driven up far beyond the national average. 

The hottest housing markets, where bidding is the most competitive, share a few traits,…

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