Agents and brokers said as property values have risen rapidly this year, home appraisals relying on past sales often have come in lower than the new, agreed-upon prices. To get their offers accepted, many buyers have agreed to buy the homes anyway, but they easily can get confused on what that means.

Bill Facendini, president and broker of Terra Firma Global Partners in Sebastopol, said he needed to explain several times to one buyer that in such a case the man couldn't simply get a bigger loan, because a banker isn't going to lend more than a home's appraised value. If the appraisal comes in $50,000 less than the sales price, Facendini told him, the buyer must come up with that amount of extra cash to pay the seller.

Both brokers and lenders said they don't foresee the outlook improving soon for buyers, especially those trying to purchase their first home.

"Sellers would rather take a cash buyer for less money than to allow a first-time homebuyer to buy a property," said Kris Anderson, a senior loan consultant with Allstate Mortgage Company in Santa Rosa.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or