For many homeowners and buyers, the housing market has finally hit a sweet spot. Values have bounced back, freeing homeowners to sell, and the majority of homes are affordable with still-low mortgage rates.

But some buyers with solid pre-approvals from lenders are running into something else: competition from buyers who can pay in all cash.

The share of cash buyers fell over the past year, but they still dominate some large markets, making it tough for individual buyers to compete. A Zillow analysis shows that, among the lowest-priced homes, more than a third of sales were made with cash in 27 of the top 30 metro areas.

To see where cash is still playing a big role, Zillow analyzed sales in the top 30 metro areas for the first quarter of 2014. Here are the top 10 markets for cash buyers:

1. Miami, FL

Zillow’s analysis found more cash deals in the Miami metropolitan area than in any of the top 30 metros analyzed. Homes bought there were bought with cash 64.9 percent of the time. Even the most expensive homes changed hands in cash deals roughly half the time. Business buyers are most likely to use cash, but individual buyers, too, are paying outright for Miami properties, especially the least expensive ones.

2. Tampa, FL

Even with a slight improvement in the housing market there, Zillow’s analysis found there are still lots of cash buyers in the Tampa area. In the retiree-rich market, it would be very tough to buy a home in the bottom of the area’s price range without cash. More than 81 percent of those homes were paid for outright.

3. Cleveland, OH

In the Midwest, Cleveland buyers paid cash 54 percent of the time. Even the most expensive homes were paid for in cash more than a third of the time.

4. Detroit, MI

In 2011, nearly 70 percent of homes bought in Detroit were paid for in cash. Since then, the cash-buyer rate has declined to 53 percent. Even individuals were paying cash in the nation’s most famous struggling housing market. In the lowest-priced tier of Detroit houses, individuals paid cash more than three-quarters of the time.

5. Cincinnati, OH

The percentage of Cincinnati deals made in cash is on the rise again after a decline over the past few years. In all, 51 percent of home sales in the first quarter of 2014 were made with cash.

6. Orlando, FL

Business investors dominated the cash market in Orlando, paying cash for 96 percent of the homes they bought in the bottom price range. About 70 percent of individual home buyers paid cash for homes in the same price range.

7. (tie) Jacksonville, FL and Memphis, TN

Nearly half of all sales in Jacksonville and Memphis were made with cash. In Memphis, the cash-buyer peak was at the end of 2012, when 60 percent of homes were bought with cash.

Among individuals buying homes in both places, most cash purchases are on the low end, as people snap up under-priced homes.

8. Chicago, IL

Investors helped drive up the percentage of all-cash deals in Chicago. More than 90 percent of lower- and mid-priced homes bought by businesses were paid for in cash. The trend didn’t hold among individual buyers.

9. Milwaukee, WI

All-cash buyers made up about 40 percent of all sales in Milwaukee. They were most prevalent among the least-expensive homes and among investors. The rate of cash buyers has been falling steadily since it peaked at 50 percent in 2012.

10. (tie) Tucson, AZ and Pittsburgh, PA

On opposite ends of the country, both the Tucson and Pittsburgh metro areas attracted cash buyers for 40 percent of their home sales in the first quarter of 2014. A large majority of business buyers brought cash to the table in both places, and businesses buying with cash in Tucson did so even for the area’s most expensive homes.

Cash buyers Q1 2014


About the Author

Emily Heffter writes about real estate trends and data for Zillow Blog.

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