Wild Housing Market Made His Modest Home a Hot Property

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PENN HILLS, Pa.—Chuck Vukotich’s yellow-brick Cape Cod is one of five houses that crowd around a cul-de-sac not quite large enough to make a U-turn.

His parents bought the place in this working-class Pittsburgh suburb in 1961. He paid his mother $55,000 for it in 2016 to keep it in the family after she moved to a nursing home.

The house isn’t for sale, but that isn’t a problem for bargain-hunting real-estate speculators. They call Mr. Vukotich multiple times a week offering to buy it. They fill his mailbox with fliers teasing all-cash deals and quick closings. Mr. Vukotich guesses he has received more than 100 inquiries.

“I don’t mind somebody trying to make a buck, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt,” he said.

A housing boom that has sent prices soaring in such places as Austin, Texas, and Miami has come to Mr. Vukotich’s nondescript neighborhood. Fevered buying has stretched beyond the vacation homes and upscale suburbs that white-collar workers sought out during the pandemic year. Even small towns and distant suburbs where homes routinely sell for less than $100,000 are abuzz.

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