Home prices have risen for 14 straight months and existing-home sales hit their highest level in more than three years in May, but many potential first-time homebuyers haven’t been able to join in the rebounding housing market.

First-time homebuyers made up 28 percent of existing-home purchases in May, down from 34 percent in May 2012 and 36 percent in May 2011, USA Today reported, citing data from the National Association of Realtors.

First-time buyers are critical to the housing recovery because they allow current owners to move up, the paper said, but they face stiff competition from all-cash buyers, many of them investors; tight credit requirements; and higher costs due to rising home prices and surging mortgage interest rates.

Source: USA Today

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