courtesy of Catherine Reagor, The Republic | September 11, 2014

Big investors, mostly backed by Wall Street, currently own about 13,000 houses in metro Phoenix, according to data provider The Information Market. Most of the houses are rentals, and few are for sale.

Market watchers are carefully tracking what these big owners — among them Blackstone Group, Empire Residential, American Residential, American Homes 4 Rent and Colony Residential — are doing with their Valley houses. Too many former rental homes for sale in an area could drive down prices.

Real-estate investors started bidding wars and paying cash for bargain-priced short-sale and foreclosure houses in 2011 when Valley prices hit bottom. Investors pushed up prices, and by 2013 higher prices and fewer foreclosures deterred them from buying more houses in metro Phoenix.

Big investors have expanded their reach into other parts of the U.S., where prices are more affordable. Some investment groups have begun selling houses in other markets where they can’t fill the houses with renters.

That’s hasn’t happened yet in the Phoenix area — and may not.