These "boomerang buyers" — so called by real-estate insiders because they were out of the market and have now come back — have returned as a major market force much earlier than expected. Many buyers are qualifying for a new loan only a few years after defaulting on their last mortgage.

Boomerang buyers are expected to account for almost one in every five home sales in metro Phoenix this year, according to a national housing analyst. That’s double the projected U.S. rate.