The staggering rise of U.S. home prices is forcing thousands of aspiring buyers into grueling, often risky bidding wars, raising questions about whether the torrid housing market could be in a bubble.

For nearly a year, the combination of low mortgage rates, a flood federal stimulus, lockdowns and teleworking — all sparked by the coronavirus pandemic — has fueled a rapid increase in demand for houses.

At the same time, COVID-19 exacerbated an already severe housing shortfall by causing major delays in new home construction and kept some potential sellers on the sidelines because they were afraid to let strangers tour their homes during a pandemic.

The median home price in April rose 20 percent — to $347,500 — compared with a year ago, and the average home spent just 20 days on the market before selling, according to data released Friday to real estate listing website Redfin.

And last month was not a pandemic anomaly.

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