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When Patrick Coleman bought a home in 2017, he beat out eight other bidders and paid $100,000 over the asking price.

So this time around, after months of watching the frenzied pace of real-estate sales, he was prepared for even more competition.

Instead, it was much easier. Mr. Coleman wasn’t even looking for a home. He and his fiancée, image consultant Rebecca Jahangeri, loved their townhouse in Washington, D.C.But in late May, he glanced at a listing his father had sent his sister in their native Potomac, Md. “She wasn’t interested,” Mr. Coleman recalled, “but I texted my dad and I said, ‘Man, I might buy this thing.’ ” Two days later, he and Ms. Jahangeri toured the six-bedroom brick Colonial and made an offer. Within a few hours, it was accepted. It was the first house they saw, and there were no other bidders. They closed in June for $2 million.