All-cash home sales reached their highest level in at least three years in the first quarter, though institutional investors accounted for a smaller share of sales, according to the latest report from real estate data aggregator RealtyTrac.

Of all home sales in the first three months of the year, 42.7 percent were all-cash purchases, up from 37.8 percent the previous quarter and from 19.1 percent in the first three months of 2013. That’s the highest level since RealtyTrac began tracking all-cash purchases in the first quarter of 2011, the company said.

Meanwhile, institutional investors — entities that have purchased at least 10 properties in a calendar year — accounted for the smallest share of purchases since first-quarter 2012. Such investors made up 5.6 percent of all U.S. home sales in the first quarter, down from 6.8 percent in fourth-quarter 2013 and from 7 percent in first-quarter 2013.

“Strict lending standards combined with low inventory continue to give the advantage to investors and other cash buyers in this housing market,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement.

“The good news is that as institutional investors pull back their purchasing in many markets across the country, there is still strong demand from other cash buyers — including individual investors, second-home buyers and even owner-occupant buyers — to fill the vacuum of demand left by institutional investors.”

In a separate survey, the National Association of Realtors also found the share of all-cash deals up and investors’ footprint waning.

Nationally, all-cash purchases rose to 33 percent in the first quarter from 31 percent in 2013 and 29 percent in 2012, the trade group said. The share of investor buyers in the first quarter edged down to 19 percent from 20 percent in 2012, but was flat from 2013.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, noted that distressed sales — popular with cash buyers — fell to 15 percent in the first quarter, compared with 26 percent in 2012.

“These findings beg the question as to why we’re seeing higher shares of cash purchases,” Yun said in a statement. “The restrictive mortgage lending standards are a factor, but the higher levels of cash sales may also come from the aging of the baby boom generation, with more trade-down and retirement buyers paying cash with decades of equity accumulation.”

Among metros with a population of at least 500,000, those with the top five highest shares of cash sales were all in Florida: Cape Coral-Fort Myers, (73.6 percent), Miami (67.1 percent), Sarasota, (65.1 percent), Palm Bay, (64.1 percent) and Lakeland, (61.8 percent), according to RealtyTrac.

All-cash deals also accounted for more than half of home sales in New York City (57 percent); Columbia, South Carolina (56.1 percent); Memphis (54.9 percent); Detroit (53.5 percent); Atlanta (53.2 percent); and Las Vegas (52.2 percent).

A quarter of the all-cash purchases nationwide were for distressed homes: 15 percent were properties in the foreclosure process and 10 percent were bank-owned properties.

“Institutional investors have bought up much of the affordable inventory they are traditionally interested in, which explains the decrease in institutional investor sales,” said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales at First Team Real Estate in Southern California, in a statement.

“We are seeing a rise in foreign buyers purchasing high-end homes, which is contributing to the rise in all-cash purchases.”

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