US home prices continued their steady upward march in February as buyers competed for a limited number of available properties.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 per cent that month compared with a year earlier, according to a report released on Tuesday.
That's down slightly from January's 5.7 per cent rise.
Prices are rising even as sales have levelled off in recent months. The number of homes for sale last month was 1.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.
That's pushed buyers to act quickly, with homes on the market just 47 days in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Svenja Gudell, chief economist at real estate website Zillow, said the problem is particularly acute for first-time buyers and those looking at mid-level homes.
"Heading into spring, buyers looking for the most expensive homes will find somewhat softening prices, a larger selection of homes to choose from and more limited competition," she said.
"Entry-level and mid-market buyers - typically the housing market's bread and butter - are likely to face stiff competition, rapidly rising prices and very limited inventory. The patience of many buyers will be tested in coming months."