One reason home prices have rebounded sharply in Phoenix, Las Vegas and other cities hard-hit by the housing bust is because large institutional investors swooped into those markets, bought up foreclosed or underwater homes and then rented them out.

But investors in single-family rentals, like Blackstone Group's Invitation Homes, have largely curtailed their buying, and may even be ready to start selling off more properties to profit from the run-up in home prices. It won't happen quickly; the last thing Blackstone wants to do is flood the market with inventory and depress prices. But observers say that even a slow, methodical exit from these markets is likely to be good news for first-time buyers because it will add to the housing stock and at least slow the rapid rise in home values.

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