10 Surprising Housing Markets That Suddenly Are Red-Hot

Happy couple standing in front of their new home.
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Housing values have soared into the stratosphere in many places across the country, and not just in well-known locales.

A new index finds that many less celebrated markets have gotten hot and are emerging as the nation’s new top real estate markets of 2021.

The inaugural Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Markets Index looked for areas that have:

  • Strong housing demand and rising prices
  • Robust economies, a lot of good-paying jobs and reasonable commutes
  • Amenities that make a place desirable, including a lot of restaurants, bars and shops

Danielle Hale, Realtor.com chief economist, says:

“The areas that top our emerging housing markets list are places that have weathered the pandemic relatively well. Their economies are generally doing better than other markets, and they’re attracting a lot of home shoppers from other areas — likely in part due to the relatively widespread work-from-home flexibility in response to the pandemic.”

After examining the country’s 300 largest metropolitan areas, these are the top emerging housing markets in America.

10. Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California
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Like several other cities on this list, Santa Cruz — about 90 minutes south of San Francisco — is thriving during the pandemic because it offers outdoor opportunities at a time when out in the fresh air is the safest place to be.

However, this is California, and that means you will need to dig deeply into your wallet to buy a home here. With a median home list price of $1.22 million, this is the most expensive place on the list.

9. Manchester, New Hampshire

Manchester, New Hampshire
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If you love the big-city excitement of Boston but hate the high price of living there, consider Manchester.

Its median home list price of $419,950 is a bargain compared with that of Beantown ($695,000) and you are only an hour north of the big city.

8. Concord, New Hampshire

Concord, New Hampshire
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State capital Concord is another city just an hour away from Boston, and the savings are even bigger than in Manchester, with Concord’s median home list price ringing in at $362,450.

Real estate broker Pamela Young of Re/Max Insight sells homes in both Concord and Manchester. She tells Realtor.com:

“We’re getting Boston-area people and people from Connecticut and New York. They’re escaping the cities and getting more space and being outside.”

7. Reno, Nevada

Reno, Nevada
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Homeowners tired of big-city prices are rolling the dice on Reno, which has a median home list price of $562,000.

As in many cities, a lack of available housing has caused the local market to heat up, with shoppers competing fiercely for new digs. Real estate broker Bryan Drakulich told local television station KOLO in March:

“We have never seen inventory this low in this marketplace, at least in my 41 years, and I’m talking about housing inventory, rental inventory and luxury homes.”

6. Lafayette, Indiana

Lafayette Indiana
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Lafayette is poised to become one of the housing success stories of the Midwest.

About one hour northwest of Indianapolis, the city has a median home list price of $297,450, the second-lowest on this list.

In addition, Lafayette is known for its cultural attractions and natural resources. And on the other side of the Wabash River, you will find West Lafayette, home to Purdue University.

5. Spokane, Washington

Spokane, Washington
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Housing is hot in Spokane. Currently, there is just an 11-day supply of homes on the market, the Spokane Association of Realtors says.

Local real estate agent Brian Zapotocky told television station KXLY in late April that he is warning clients that if they sell their home, they may struggle to find a new one in the city.

The median home list price of $434,900 puts Spokane near the middle of this list.

4. Billings, Montana

Billings Montana
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The roof has blown off the housing market in Big Sky country. People began flocking to the state in droves once the pandemic provided an excuse to work remotely.

Median list prices have climbed to $428,500 in Billings, and other parts of the state also are attracting many new residents. A Montana State University Billings study found that people are moving to Montana because it is safe and secure. NBC Montana reports:

“According to the same study, 75% of real estate agents surveyed got interested buyers from California, 56% from Washington and 49% from Colorado.”

3. Springfield, Ohio

Springfield, Ohio
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Bargain-basement prices may be luring buyers to Springfield. With a median home sale value of $144,900, it is by far the most affordable city on the index list.

Another factor that makes Springfield attractive is its proximity to three larger Ohio cities. It is about an hour away from Dayton and Columbus, and 75 minutes from Cincinnati.

2. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas waterscape
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It is no secret that the nation has fallen head-over-heels in love with Texas. So many people are flocking there that Texas actually picked up two congressional seats in the latest census, the only state to do so.

Austin is drawing people from California and other states like a magnet. Realtor.com describes the state capital as “an emerging tech hub that is growing by leaps and bounds,” and the local housing market is on fire, with median home list prices climbing to $520,000.

Local real estate agent Jason Bernknopf estimates that about 90% of buyers are simply shut out of the market. As he told Realtor.com:

“Buyers have stopped looking. They put in nine offers, they go 15% over asking, and someone is always going over that.”

1. Coeur D’Alene, Idaho

Coeur d' Alene, Idaho
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A popular vacation spot about 40 minutes east of Spokane, Washington, Coeur D’Alene finishes in the top slot among emerging U.S. housing markets. Even its hefty median list price of $799,000 is not scaring away homebuyers.

In less than one year, three-bedroom, two-bath homes within the city limits that formerly could be found in the $330,000 range now cost about $100,000 more.

Local real estate agent Raniel Diaz told Realtor.com that many shoppers are simply giving up. The market is so competitive that about half of homes are selling in all-cash deals. Diaz says:

“We’re seeing price appreciation that is so incredible.”

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