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Real estate's new hidden market

Unable to sell, a growing number of homeowners are simply pulling homes from market.

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UNSEEN COMPANY: Unable to attract buyers, some sellers have pulled their homes from the market. Above, a home for sale in Stoneham, Mass.

LISA POOLE/AP

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Twice in the past two years, Matt and Christine Krol have put their Cave Creek, Ariz., house on the market. And twice, without any serious bids, they have removed the "For Sale" sign and rented out the house with its new granite countertops and inviting swimming pool.

"We never wanted to be landlords," says Ms. Krol from Puerto Rico, where she has moved. "We would still sell it if it went along with the lease and tenants, and the market improved."

Across the country, sellers discouraged by the prices offered for their homes, or tired of watching people traipse through their bedrooms, are yanking their homes off the market. While it's difficult to say how many houses this might be, housing experts believe the numbers are substantial. The implications of this "shadow inventory" are widespread: the housing market may be slow to come back, affecting everything from when Americans retire to whether they can afford to move to find a new job.

"I'm not sure how you measure it, but there are a lot of pent-up sellers," says Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com. "They will come out once the market finds firmer ground."

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