The trade group’s monthly market update showed 4,304 new property listings in the Twin Cities metro, 3.1 percent more than last year. At the same time, buyers signed 3,130 purchase agreements, a 4.3 percent increase. Still, there’s not enough options for buyers, mostly first-timers, and that’s putting upward pressure on prices, dampening sales. During January, 8,212 properties were on the market, 25.4 percent fewer than the same period a year ago and the fewest in 14 years.

Noting that the uptick in new listings during January was the second biggest monthly gain in nearly a year, MAAR President Cotty Lowry said that 2017 is off to a strong start.

“If that is sustained,” he said. “We should be able to achieve the balancing act of steady price gains while maintaining our affordability.”

With a swelling number of first-time buyers driving the market, the vast majority of buyers are hunting for houses priced from $190,000 to $250,000. As those entry-level properties find buyers, the number of move-up buyers is rising. During January, the largest percent gain in sales was in the $350,000 to $500,000 range.

Move-up buyers have been scarce in some parts of the metro largely because so many owners of entry-level houses still haven’t recovered enough equity to justify selling. The situation is changing rapidly as rising prices reduce the number of people who have a mortgage that exceeds the value of their house.