The winning bidder of a Grand Rapids, Mich., house has been offered almost $20,000 to hand his purchase contract to another buyer. An agent in Nashville, Tenn., got a property for his client by cold-calling local homeowners. Near Columbus, Ohio, it took a teacher five tries to secure a deal.

It's the 2017 spring home-selling season, and listings are scarcer than they've ever been. Bidding wars common in perennially hot markets like the San Francisco Bay area, Denver and Boston are now also prevalent in the once slow-and-steady heartland, sending prices higher and sparking desperation among buyers across the country.

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