The Amazon Effect: Prices Up, Listings Down Near Its New HQ2 in Virginia

Lisa Werner/Getty Images

The housing market may be slowing nationally—but not in Arlington, VA, where Amazon plans to open a new headquarters and sellers are anticipating big profits.

Since the tech behemoth announced in November 2018 that it would open a location just outside Washington, DC, home sales in Arlington have jumped 50% compared with the previous year, according to a recent® report. Meanwhile, the number of properties on the market plummeted by about 40% between then and now—possibly because homeowners are waiting to list until Amazon workers start flooding into the market, pushing up prices.

It’s already happening: Real estate list prices rose a median $110,000 for the Arlington market during the same period, representing a 17.3% surge. To put that into perspective, nationally, price appreciation was $17,000, or just 5.5%.

(Originally, Long Island City, a neighborhood in Queens, NY, was selected for another headquarters. But after pushback from local leaders, Amazon pulled out of the location in February.)

Prior to Amazon’s announcement, the housing market in Arlington and the greater DC area was “fairly stagnant,” says Danielle’s chief economist.

“We’ve seen rapid price growth in asking prices,” Hale says. But that doesn’t mean that buyers are willing to pay whatever sellers are asking. “Sales prices have yet to catch up in the same way.”


Watch: Just How Many Homes Could Jeff Bezos Afford in the Amazon HQ2 Candidate Cities?


The median home price in Arlington in November 2018 was $640,000, compared with $750,000 in April 2019, according to the report. But sellers aren’t yet rushing to list their homes.

“Even though it is an excellent time to sell your home, people don’t seem to be doing that,” she says.

That means there’s plenty of competition for those shopping for a home in the DC area.

“It’s 100% a seller’s market” in both Arlington and the nearby city of Alexandria, VA, says Holly Tennant Billy, a McLean, VA-based Realtor at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. Buyers have to play hardball, because even homes in the $1.7 million range are receiving multiple offers, she says.

In the Crystal City neighborhood, where Amazon plans to open its new headquarters, the median home price is $609,900, according to  There were just 17 properties listed in the Crystal City ZIP code of 22202 on as of May 23. Amazon is attempting to rebrand the area, which is made up primarily of office buildings with some condos and single-family homes mixed in, as “National Landing.”

The lack of available affordable housing is causing buyers to look elsewhere—or think out of the box.

Arlington County recently changed its restrictions on accessory dwelling units. That means residents can build an additional housing unit, such as a garage apartment or other small home, on their property.

Those wanting a single-family home might have to look farther outside the DC metropolitan area. One of those cities booming with new construction is Manassas, VA, about half an hour outside the nation’s capital.

“It’s a long commute, and public transportation doesn’t get you from point A to point B,” Billy says. But the median price there is just $339,450. “I see the growth in the surrounding areas continuing,” she adds.

Efforts to manage that growth are continuing as well.

“People are concerned about housing prices and displacement,” says David Cristeal, the housing director of Arlington County. “We’re in a balancing act and doing the best we can to accommodate people, but also preserve community and affordability. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

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As Tiny Homes Spread Across the Nation, They’re Getting Bigger—and Pricier

Bela Fishbeyn

It wasn’t exactly a comedown when Spencer Wright, 31, and Bela Fishbeyn traded in their cramped Bay Area apartment for a 300-square-foot house a little more than two years ago. In fact, it’s actually been an upgrade in every way.

The home they bought for just over $100,000 in the Santa Cruz mountains in Boulder Creek, CA, wasn’t made for a hermit. Designed and built by New Frontier Tiny Homes, it has a king bed on a hydraulic lift for storage underneath, a walk-in closet, an outside deck about the size of the house, and an art installation made of reclaimed wood from 1767 Designs.

“The smaller the house, the more attention you can give to each little detail,’’ says Wright, a stay-at-home dad. He and his wife, the executive managing editor of the American Journal of Bioethics, wanted to experiment with a different way of living. “The goal was to make it so nothing would be missing.”

The tiny house movement grew out of the simplicity movement of the 1980s and 1990s. The goal was to build ultracompact houses (preferably without professional assistance) for next to nothing in someone’s backyard, to reduce consumerism and debt and return to a simpler way of life. But over the last 10 years, tiny homes have evolved—and they’re not so simple anymore. Buyers are increasingly seeking larger dwellings with top-of-the-line appliances and high-end finishes, and having builders do the labor for them.

Many of these units are now outfitted with stainless-steel appliances, built-in TVs, and elaborate cabinetry, says Mark Stemen, a geography professor who teaches sustainability at California State University in Chico. Luxurious tiny homes with composting toilets, solar panels, and insulation for year-round living can now go for more than $200,000.

More tiny home communities are opening across the country, as television shows such as HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters” have led to a boom in popularity for little house living. These units typically top out at about 400 square feet. And now that more builders are getting into the game, and lenders are helping buyers get loans for the properties, prices are shooting up. Folks are also using them as vacation homes and renting them out when they’re not around.

“The tiny house movement is expanding to meet the desires and needs of the people who are in it and joining it every day,” says Coles Whalen, marketing director of Simple Life. The Jacksonville, FL-based developer is creating tiny home communities in the South. It recently unveiled a more expensive, nicer two-bedroom “tiny” home model that is about 540 square feet.

“It’s adapting to accommodate the needs of people who are tired of spending money on square footage they’re not using, but they may want slightly more” room, she says.

Spencer Wright and Bela Fishbeyn’s tiny house was outfitted so that nothing would be missing.

Tiny homes experience square-footage creep

Over the last decade, tiny home companies have seen a rise in folks seeking larger tiny homes.

The plans, shells (exterior structure minus windows and doors) and completed homes sold by Tiny Home Builders used to be, well, small. Standard tiny homes used to be about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. But now the Cumming, GA-based company is seeing more customers ask for 30-foot plans and shells. Owner Dan Louche is even fielding calls for 40-foot models.

That’s prompted him to ask, “Are you still interested in a tiny house?”

The traditional, do-it-yourself 20-foot tiny homes can cost $15,000 to $20,000, including materials but not counting labor, says Louche. Those who buy pre-made shells then have the plumbing and electrical systems installed.

Twenty years ago, Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Colorado Springs, CO, would sell 9-foot by 10-foot houses that weighed about 7,000 pounds, says Pat Clancy, the company’s office manager. Now, they’re offering 30-foot-long abodes that need a special trailer to handle the 18,000 pounds. They’re built in the company’s manufacturing plant.

The company is certified and inspected by the RV Industry Association, in part to help buyers access insurance and financing. Buyers can now finance a tiny home ranging in price from $435 to $630 per month with a 15-year or 23-year term, based on a purchase price of $70,000 to $90,000, according to the company’s website.

The introduction of professional builders and manufacturers has allowed prices to stabilize at around $65,000 to $75,000 for a standard 28-foot finished tiny home, Tiny Home Builders’ Louche says. Anything priced higher than that is typically a lot swankier.

Buyers with money to spend are also working with design teams to customize their dream tiny homes. Tiny Heirloom, in Portland, OR, is selling abodes with motorized decks that retract in 30 seconds. These can go from $89,000 to $220,000. Some models are bought by companies like IKEA looking to showcase the latest tiny trends or by investors looking to rent them out.

But the actual cost of setting up a tiny homestead can actually be much higher, as folks still need to have land to put them on. That can be a challenge where there are unfriendly local zoning laws.

“They’re appealing to someone who is willing to pay for that,’’ Louche says.

The Elm is a Tumbleweed Tiny House starting at $76,000.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.

Buyers are turning fancy tiny homes into vacation properties, rentals

Tiny homes still make sense for folks on a budget, even those looking for a more affordable second home. That’s what Chip Hayes was thinking when he developed the Retreat at Deer Lick Falls near Monteagle, TN. The 48-home, gated subdivision features a waterfall, a communal fire pit, and lots of hiking trails nearby. Homes range from 400 square feet to just over 500 square feet.

Hayes had built second homes on Cedar Lake and Tims Ford Lake. But those normal-sized homes ran around $300,000.

“Even if you can afford $300,000 for a vacation home, do you want to pay that?” he asks.

The homes at the Retreat at Deer Lick Falls with land start at $100,000. There’s an additional $95 per month in homeowner association fees for landscaping and mowing. The subdivision sold out in two and a half weeks, Hayes says.

Real estate agents Jack Miller and his husband, Harlen Crossen, of Brentwood, TN, snapped one up right away. They spent $200,000 for a 550-square-foot house on 2 acres of land.

It’s roomy enough for a bedroom plus a couch that folds out into a queen-sized bed, enough space for a family or guests. The house has birch and cedar shingles outside, shiplap instead of drywall indoors, and granite countertops.

“It’s like Ralph Lauren got ahold of the cottage and shook it,’’ says Miller. Crossen loved the place so much he decided to become an on-site sales agent for the development.

The two hope to enjoy the place on the weekends and rent it out as well.

That’s also what Wright and Fishbeyn are doing in California. They lived in their tiny home for more than a year before putting it on Airbnb. Guests can now rent it out for $235 per night.

“Everybody can’t afford a $1.5 million second home,” says Miller. “But a lot more people can afford this, particularly if they can generate income for it.”

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The Retirement Community of the Future May Be More Like a WeWork

Northtown branch library and senior living center

Evergreen Real Estate Group in Chicago

Louise Rausa, 72, lived in world-class cities including Paris and New York, and she spent part of her adulthood in co-housing communities in the western United States where residents shared a kitchen, garden and outdoor space.

So when it was time to retire, there was little chance that a sedate retirement community would make a suitable destination for the active, now-single Rausa, who shares her knowledge of cuisine in workshops for neighbors and regularly hosts her grandchildren.

A little over two years ago, the former registered nurse opted for an apartment in North Hollywood, Calif.’s NoHo Senior Arts Colony, where hallways are a rotating gallery, studio space is available for residents to mix their own paints and a theater occupies the ground floor. In true Angelino style, Rausa owns a car and parks it on site, but she can walk around her high-density neighborhood or take mass transit.

Some of the most notable features? “Salon-style discussions of history and politics with ethnic food to share and personal IT help for residents,” says Rausa.

The downsides? “There could be more grab bars [for support], and the rent goes up about $35 a month every year. For [neighbors] on a limited income, that does not keep up with COLA [the annual cost-of-living adjustment].”

In fact, that estimation may be understating what has been a steady creep higher for senior housing costs, especially in robust real-estate markets such as California, where the Department of Housing and Urban Development has allowed subsidized senior rents to float higher, capped at increases of 11% a year, alongside price gains in the overall market, says Michelle Coulter, director of operations with Meta Housing, the developer of the NoHo project.

Little doubt it’s the evolving priorities of Rausa and her contemporaries, including the financial burdens associated with living longer than prior generations did, that challenges a U.S. formula for senior housing that hadn’t changed much in decades. Yet if the demanding, savvy-consumer baby boomers taking over where their Depression-era parents left off have their say on where and how they live as they age — and geriatrics experts say they do — the era of grin-and-bear-it acquiescence is no more.

An artist with work from a class at NoHo Senior Arts Colony.
Shadow artist Maria Bodmann shows Jeff Boysen work from a class she taught at the recently opened NoHo Senior Arts Colony.

Bethany Mollenkof/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Today’s target market for senior housing comprises a large and influential demographic. The number of households with people age 80 and over jumped 71% from 4.4 million in 1990 to 7.5 million in 2016, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in its “Housing America’s Older Adults” report. As baby boomers age, the number of households in this group will more than double by 2037.

Many of today’s best available senior-housing options are really a nod to the past: higher-density locales, homes suited for multiple generations, and community support and stimulation that keeps retirees active and healthy.

Until recently, U.S. senior-housing solutions have largely consisted of cookie-cutter developments demanding big upfront deposits from residents who might eventually face a new round of stress in seeking high-level, and usually expensive, nursing-home care elsewhere, says Jane O’Connor, principal at 55 Plus LLC in Charlemont, Mass., a consultancy focused on senior housing and lifestyles.

The cost of long-term-care insurance has skyrocketed due to factors including actuarial longevity and persistently low interest rates hurting insurers’ portfolios. That means, in many cases, when an individual can no longer live alone or rely on a spouse or partner, the next stage for care has mostly involved uprooting seniors to move in with family members who had not banked on the arrangement.

Reliving your 20s? Yes, and no

It’s clear that the U.S. is little match for Europe when it comes to rethinking elder care. The Netherlands, for instance, is home to a memory-care village, a complete indoor-outdoor community for dementia patients. Holland has also piloted a program pairing affordable-housing-seeking college students as roommates with companion-seeking seniors.

The needs and likes of these age groups aren’t so varied. In fact, it’s where, as much as how, seniors live that may take a page from the millennial and Generation Z handbook: a migration back into cities and denser suburbs for an active lifestyle and readily available services, according to architecture firm Perkins Eastman. In a survey it conducted in early 2019, 26% of client firms that build and redevelop properties for seniors says they believe boomers will be most concerned with living in proximity to an urban location or town center, up from 19% in 2017.

Evergreen Real Estate Group in Chicago, for example, is developing three urban projects that include a technology-focused, all-ages public library and media center on the ground floor topped by three stories of affordable senior rental apartments.

Annual income for eligibility is capped at $38,000 per person. Some units are supported with rental-assistance subsidies, while others rent at $740 monthly for a one-bedroom and $890 for a two-bedroom apartment. In at least one instance, a green roof and a terrace inject outdoor space, while a busy public-transit corridor and a substantial public park with tennis courts, ice rink and other programming are easily reachable.

Interior of the Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library, one of three similar projects that feature community space with senior apartments above.
Interior of the Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library, one of three similar projects that feature community space with senior apartments above.

Evergreen Real Estate Group in Chicago

“There is certainly a move back to the city among a lot of groups, including a population of seniors who maybe left when they had kids, but always wanted to move back,” says David Block, director of development at Chicago’s Evergreen. “It’s part of a broader move in real-estate development that says the way we built cities, with commercial space below and then we lived ‘above the store,’ so to speak, well, there’s a certain amount of wisdom in that.”

What’s more, builders and remodelers in urban, suburban and rural destinations alike are increasingly meeting seniors where they already live, creating space to entertain grandchildren, installing the bulk of kitchen storage at reduced heights and creating barrier-free entries that are seamless with the landscape, says O’Connor of 55 Plus in Massachusetts.

How technology is helping

And then there is a rethinking of senior housing at the personal level. Technology, especially leveraging the sharing economy, can help satisfy boomers who want to age in place or are rightfully demanding more from their assisted-living options. (Think of services spanning Uber or Lyft rides to in-home wellness programming.)

“Transportation-on-demand, dining-on-demand and online learning are all trends that really play well in the senior market,” says Dan Hutson, chief strategy officer for the Los Angeles–based nonprofit HumanGood, one of the U.S.’s largest senior-living-community owners and operators. “Giving priority to voice-first technology [such as Amazon’s Alexa and its rivals] over even mobile-first technology is tailor-made to serve older adults.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Age Lab, in a report, showed that for a single 85-year-old homeowner living without significant physical or financial distress and without a mortgage, the total cost of living at home using sharing-economy services for one month was $2,967. Compare that with an assisted-living model in the Boston metropolitan area (including meals and housekeeping), which runs $6,433 a month. The report did discover a tech learning curve, especially given how fast next-generation updates are required, and conceded that security and privacy compromises were off-putting for some.

The sharing economy has a place at the provider level, too, says HumanGood’s Hutson. “With food delivery, who says that a senior-living community even has to have a commercial kitchen? Or a fleet of vans? You can virtualize a lot of that and reallocate those dollars to other aspects.”

And in health care, virtual exchanges will only gain in popularity. Telehealth — video check-ins or the use of monitoring technology to share information with a health-care professional — is already filling gaps in rural communities. It reduces transportation barriers for seniors and mitigates health-care costs by, for example, reducing emergency-room visits for more easily diagnosed ailments and blood-pressure checkups, all toward the end of helping seniors remain in their homes. In early 2019, AT&T, for one, rolled out a smartwatch, OnePulse, designed with telehealth and remote patient-monitoring capabilities.

Powerful Wi-Fi connectivity and personal technology also influence much of the design in higher-income senior housing, says Justin Dickinson, vice president of investments with CA Senior Living LLC. The Chicago-based company has luxury retirement complexes in several major U.S. markets typically available to singles or couples with incomes well over the $35,000 household median at age 75 (according to U.S. Census data) and funded in part by a home sale, other investments and income, or long-term-care insurance. On the recreational side, active-lifestyle technologies can mean golf simulators. But there are health and security applications as well: geospatial intelligence wearables for residents — similar to Fitbit exercise trackers — which can help with fall prevention, wandering neighbors, even appointment reminders.

Drum circle class at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony in North Hollywood
Drum circle class at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony in North Hollywood

Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

‘Aging in community’

Many seniors say they prefer “aging in place” instead of moving in with family or packing up for multistage assisted living. Amy Schectman, chief executive officer at 2Life Communities, which serves the housing needs of about 1,500 mostly low-income seniors in the Boston area, says “aging in community” is more important. That’s because isolation is a serious health danger. It’s a bigger threat than obesity and smoking, and can double the rate of dementia, she says.

Inclusion, says Schectman, can present itself in the most low-tech of ways. She recalls resident “Rose,” a dementia sufferer who maintained a social life in a 2Life facility simply because friends of long standing kept a weekly date on Mondays for a mock bridge game to provide her companionship, and then played a competitive game on Tuesdays without her.

For budget-minded Schectman, her sharing-economy approach is micro; she’s piloting a program in which residents take on roles in reception, dining or continuing education, for instance, in order to cut down on the costs of paying for staff in those positions and at the same time reinforcing a sense of community.

For some seniors, the multistep model of transitioning from independent living to assisted living to intensive nursing and memory care, but all on the same campus, will be the best and only option. That’s true for Phillip Beluscheck and his wife, Marilyn, both 89 and living since 2017 in Aspired Living of Westmont, outside of Chicago, after 50-plus years in the same family home.

Their move, endorsed by Phillip Beluscheck as “no place is perfect, but this is pretty close,” was expedited in part as a boomer daughter began splitting time between Florida and Illinois. And, importantly, their selection could be financed by Beluscheck’s careful retirement planning. The former executive at General Motors — who now regularly educates an Aspired Living audience on the technology behind driverless cars — collects a corporate pension, supplemented by the sale of the couple’s nearby suburban home and an income-generating stock portfolio to cover a $7,400-a-month apartment. The new home features a kitchenette, any-time meal service in a community dining room, maintenance, shuttle service, fitness facilities and programming, and some medical checkups and prescription management, among other amenities.

Being mindful of affordability, service quality and socialization will drive the impetus for crafting coming decades’ menu of senior housing solutions. That includes variety in multistep models, looser zoning for multigenerational homes, as well as a resourceful sharing economy and neighborhood services.

“The 1990s was a big explosion of continuing-care retirement communities, [where] design was predetermined, and you had to buy in early with a hefty deposit. They were tribal — like the country-club set — but boomers don’t like this model,” O’Connor of 55 Plus says.

“These are the children [raised by] the ‘Because I say so’ generation,” says O’Connor. In rebellion, and with many more options, “they’re going to retire just how they want.”

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Want to Live Near Prince Harry, Meghan, and Archie? Here’s Your Chance

GOR/Getty Images; Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Now that Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their adorable newborn, Archie, are all settled in their newly renovated home, Frogmore Cottage, fans of the young royals would love to get to know them better—and what better way than to become their neighbor?

No surprise, then, that Windsor—the quaint little town where the Frogmore estate is situated—has reportedly seen a 35% uptick in property searches since Archie’s birth.

That’s according to Miles Shipside, a spokesman for the U.K.-based real estate site Rightmove, who explained to the press: “The British public adores the royal family, and you only have to look at how many people lined the streets for Harry and Meghan’s wedding to see that. So, to be able to buy a property which would effectively make you a neighbor of the duke and duchess is something really special.”

Anthony Blackstone, director of the Sunningdale branch of Winkworth, a real estate agent, which covers Windsor, agrees. “With the Duke and Duchess of Sussex living just around the corner,” he said, “Windsor has become somewhat of a fairy-tale town and is a marvelous place to raise a family.”

How much do homes in Windsor near Harry and Meghan cost?

So how much will it cost to live within latte-bumping distance of the royals? Currently, the average asking price for a Windsor home reportedly hovers around $721,240. But that could start rising, fast. One house just a 20-minute walk from Frogmore Cottage has just hit the market for about $1.4 million.

Granted, this new listing is quite grand, with four bedrooms, a formal drawing room, formal dining room, and a walled rear garden. However, the house is reportedly in need in of a full renovation.

house on Kings Road
This house in Windsor is beautiful—and within walking distance from Harry, Meghan, and Archie.

Google Maps

In other words, if you hope to invite the royal family over for tea or a playdate, you’d better be prepared to shell out, so you can entertain them in style.

And banking on a peaceful getaway in Windsor might turn out to be a pricey gamble. Imagine if megaphoned tour buses start roaring down these once-quiet streets, filled with selfie-snapping gawkers hoping for a peek of Archie, too. And good luck getting a seat at your local pub!

“Delays and inconveniences should certainly be expected,” Jon Knight, chief security officer of, tells®. But he points out that the additional security detail could come with some advantages for local residents.

“Purchasing a home here likely makes you less of a [burglary] target than people in other high-end neighborhoods,” Knight says. “It’s about who’s the biggest target, and here it is the royal family—not a nearby homeowner. The owner of [a home in Windsor] will benefit from nearby security measures.”

Sound convincing? You might want to consider a few of these Windsor properties from’s U.K. listings (exact addresses available upon request):

4-bedroom, 1-bath Windsor apartment for $228,526

This restored 16th-century, timber-framed building has been divvied up into shops on the ground floor and quaint, character-filled apartments above. Plus: A sign on the building claims that Anne Boleyn once lodged here, before she became the queen of Henry VIII.

harry and meghan
Apartment for sale in Windsor

This building was once an inn where Anne Boleyn is said to have bunked down.

1-bedroom, 1-bath Windsor apartment for $342,790

Welcome to Recognition House, a former convent! This cozy apartment also boasts gorgeous gated grounds.

An apartment is for sale in this former convent.

The kitchen

4-bedroom, 2-bath house for $1,110,892

At the other end of the spectrum, you can purchase this single-family home, perched in a cul-de-sac so you’ll have plenty of peace and quiet.

A house in Windsor for sale

6-bedroom, 5-bath house for $2,405,876

Want to live like royalty yourself? Then pony up for Burfield Lodge, a gorgeous Georgian estate where the mistress of King William IV was rumored to live. It’s a short distance from Windsor proper, but with digs like this, we doubt Meghan and Harry would turn up their noses at an invite!

A house fit for royalty

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Famous Los Feliz Murder Mansion in L.A. for Sale—Would You Want to Live in It?

A massive fixer-upper sitting atop a hill with to-die-for views of downtown Los Angeles hit the market last week for $3.5 million, which in Tinseltown is not a bad deal. There’s just one catch: The five-bed, four-bath mansion in tony Los Feliz has a gruesome history.

The Los Feliz Murder Mansion, as it’s known, was where Harold Perelson, a cardiologist, bludgeoned his wife, Lillian Perelson, to death with a hammer in 1959. He then went after their 18-year-old daughter, but she escaped. The doctor spared the  two youngest children, but took a lethal cocktail of drugs. He was discovered dead next to his wife in their bedroom.

Over the following 60 years, the Spanish Revival home has become a local legend. Perched on nearly two-thirds of an acre, the mansion has mostly sat vacant in the celebrity-studded neighborhood. Many claim it’s haunted.

The home was built in 1925 and comes with comes with a formal dining room, a library, and ballroom for entertaining. It has a three-car garage, plus a two-car garage for collectors.

In mid-2016, Lisa Bloom, a television legal analyst, and her husband, Braden Pollock, a tech investor, picked it up for $2.3 million in a probate auction.

The murder “doesn’t affect me,” Pollock told® in 2016. “It was a great opportunity to get a rare property like this at a good price.”

The Los Feliz Murder Mansion has been stripped down to its studs.

The couple, who never lived in the mansion, filed remodeling plans with the city that would have roughly doubled the square footage. They had the house gutted in preparation for a massive renovation. They had planned to move into the master bedroom where Lillian Perelson was murdered once the renovation was completed.

But after three years of back-and-forth with the city, the couple was informed that they’d need to tear the home down and regrade the hill because the slope wasn’t up to code for the scale of their proposed renovations. At that point, they chose to walk away and move elsewhere.

“It’s certainly disappointing. It was a lot of wasted time and wasted money,” Pollock recently told “We had our hearts set on moving out there and living there.”

A less extensive renovation may not trigger the requirement to regrade the hill.

“The house is ready to be remodeled,” says their real estate agent, Scott Pinkerton of Century 21 Peak. “It’s been taken down to the studs. There’s no plumbing, no electrical.”

He’s not sure if the notoriety of the murder will help or hurt the sale of the home. The sellers are only looking for cash offers.

“Some people would be freaked out by it. And there are some people out there that would want to buy it because of what happened. People like a story, and this house has one,” says Pinkerton. “For the right buyer, it’s going to be a great place. There’s a ton of potential there.”

The post Famous Los Feliz Murder Mansion in L.A. for Sale—Would You Want to Live in It? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Fancy, yet Frugal: 10 Victorian Homes Under $300K You Can Buy Right Now

Victorian architecture is an expression of the “More is more” philosophy of design, producing ornate, intricate homes that resemble giant dollhouses. The style is perennially popular and when preserved properly, results in feature-worthy dwellings.

Victorians were supercharged in the late 1800s by the development of steam-powered sawmills, which could mass-produce wood trim with ornate patterns quickly and cheaply, making complicated designs in bright colors available to everyday Americans.

Many classic Victorians are still standing, in almost every corner of the country. And many of these large vintage homes are deceptively affordable.

We turned up 10 Victorians on the market for less than $300,000—and they aren’t fixer-uppers, either. Many of the homes we’ve highlighted below have been lovingly updated, restored, and preserved, ensuring that these grand dames will have a bright future.

Get ready to dream about stained glass, fancy parlors, and idly sitting on the front porch, watching the carriages roll by.

637 Crescent Ave, Ellwood City, PA 

Price: $224,000

Grove House: Built in 1891 by Captain Abraham C. Grove, this five-bedroom home has been fully restored. Many of the home’s original features remain, including two fireplaces, woodwork, pocket doors, and stained-glass windows. Recent updates include a new kitchen with quartz countertops, front and side porches, and a new bathroom in the main bedroom suite.

Ellwood City, PA


518 Lincolnway E, Mishawaka, IN

Price: $159,900

Boggs House: It was originally built in 1898 by the Boggs family, and much of this Victorian home’s original charm remains, including crystal door knobs, skeleton key entry, beveled glass windows, inlaid design hardwood floors, and oak woodwork. There is some work ahead for an enterprising buyer—the place is being sold as is. With four bedrooms and nearly 2,800 square feet, there’s no limit to what new owners could do with the property.

Mishawaka, IN


15 Hillside Pl, New Britain, CT 

Price: $235,000

Mitchell House: Built in 1888 for Charles E. Mitchell, the attorney who wrote the charter for the town of New Britain, this four-bedroom Queen Anne Victorian looks like a million bucks. And the asking price is way less than that! The 2,700-square-foot home sits on more than a half-acre, and highlights include hardwood floors, coffered ceilings, and pocket doors, plus ornate woodwork and trim.

New Britain, CT


307 Seminary St, Lodi, WI 

Price: $274,900

Backyard oasis: Built in 1910, this Victorian was recently fully restored by its current owners, who also made over the lovely backyard. The three-bedroom home is highlighted with maple cabinetry, a copper sink, wood floors, and ornate chandeliers. There’s a deck out back along with a pergola, a shed, and a carport.

Lodi, WI


116 W. Main St, Manchester, MI 

Price: $279,900

Main Street masterpiece: This quaint four-bedroom Victorian was built in 1902 and sits on the city’s main drag. It includes original crown molding, a full wall of pass-through cabinets, and an updated bathroom. The double lot boasts a lovely yard and a detached two-car garage.

Manchester, MI


16 Alden St, Worcester, MA 

Price: $229,900

Green Victorian: This adorable home has been fully updated with green, environmentally advanced features, including solar panels, Marmoleum and bamboo flooring, and VOC paint. The three-bedroom home sits across the street from Oread Castle Park, a 3-acre open space with basketball courts, picnic tables, and outdoor fitness areas.

Worcester, MA


545 McGhee St, Jellico, TN

Price: $185,000

Jellico gem: Built in 1902, this roomy five-bedroom, over 2,600-square-foot home features original woodwork and hardwood floors. There’s also a wraparound porch, three fireplaces, stained glass, a grand staircase, and plenty of natural light. Surrounding the home are fruit trees and blueberry bushes, and there’s a park right across the street.

Jellico, TN


980 NE 2nd St, Dufur, OR 

Price: $259,000

Mount Hood views: With views of Mount Hood from the second floor, this Victorian offers plenty to get excited about. Built in 1904, much of the three-bedroom home has been updated, including the kitchen, covered deck, windows, and a new roof.

Dufur, OR


213 E. Union St, Rockton, IL 

Price: $265,000

Farmhouse fabulous: Located in historic Rockton, this pastel-hued Victorian has five bedrooms and more than 2,400 square feet. Sitting on a large lot, the home has been restored to capture its original magic, while offering modern comforts. There’s a full glass conservatory and a covered wraparound porch, as well as a finished basement.

Rockton, IL


201 Fountain Ave, Paducah, KY 

Price: $154,000

Tucked away from it all: Built in 1881, this home features soaring ceilings, an ample front porch with leaded glass alcove, and gorgeous staircase. The upstairs could be a total master retreat, with a main bedroom suite and a sitting room or office. The central bathroom has been recently updated, and the home’s backyard is overlooked by a deck.

Paducah, KY

The post Fancy, yet Frugal: 10 Victorian Homes Under $300K You Can Buy Right Now appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

The Terrible Truth About This ‘Viral’ $7K Tiny House on Amazon

Amazon—the mega-retailer delivering everything from books to blenders, at blinding speed—has recently begun hawking a new type of product that’s apparently selling like hotcakes: tiny houses.

The site’s latest tiny house sensation is the Allwood Solvalla—a 172-square-foot abode (shown above) priced at a mere $7,250. The manufacturer claims it can be built by two adults in eight hours, although delivery takes about three to five weeks. But hey, at least shipping is free—all 2,480 pounds of Nordic wood, as well as most of the other components you’ll need to put the place together.

Reports say the Solvalla went viral and sold out instantly. It’s currently back in stock—and in case it sells out again, Allwood has fleshed out its line to include plenty of alternatives.

If you want a bit more leg room, you can buy the Allwood Bella, with 237 square feet of downstairs living space and an upstairs 86-square-foot loft. But it will cost you, at $17,800.

Assembly of this wood cabin takes about 16 hours for two adults, Allwood notes.

Don’t want to blow the budget? Consider the Allwood Claudia, which boasts 209 feet for $8,250.

tiny house on amazon
The Allwood Claudia, a 209-square-foot tiny house, is priced at $8,250.

Looking for a cabin that sounds like a charming English lake house? Try the Allwood Sommersby. At 174 square feet, this retails for $8,360.

According to the manufacturer, this has been a top seller in the United Kingdom, France, and in the United States since it hit the market.

If you’re fine with sacrificing space for a lower price point, check out Allwood’s Lillevilla Escape, which offers you 113 square feet for $4,990.

Use this as a pool or toolshed or just a quiet oasis in your backyard.

Or, if a sauna is more your thing, you can buy Allwood’s barrel sauna, which sells for $4,950 and comes complete with a Harvia M3 wood-fired heater made in Finland.

The cylinder shape “allows natural continuous air circulation because the air is pushed back on the round walls,” according to Allwood.

So many choices! Then again, Amazon prides itself on its wide selection.

Still, though: Are these mini abodes really the dreamy bargains that many may hope them to be?

The tiny house boom on Amazon: A reality check

When in doubt, it’s always helpful to read Amazon reviews, right? Well, the Solvalla currently has three, and they’re not encouraging.

An Amazon customer identified as “No” writes, “Screw this. For the price you can have an addition built on your house with AC. And electric. Not to mention you could buy the materials and do this yourself for under $4,000.”

Ouch! That’s harsh, but this same sentiment was echoed by tiny house builders.

“This product is a waste of time and money,” says Andrew Bennett of the Florida-based Trekker Trailers, a leader in tiny home designing and building. “They are playing on the tiny house industry. It would be more cost-effective to start from scratch. This type of product is bad for the industry and misleading. It’s not a dwelling. It’s a shed, or an atrium, or a greenhouse.”

Dan Louche, who founded Tiny Home Builders in 2009, agrees. “This garden house, aka shed, would not be easy to make suitable to live in,” he says.

To be fair, Allwood doesn’t recommend that it be used as a full-time dwelling. Instead, the manufacturer suggests that it can serve as “a wine tasting room, yoga studio, set for outdoor cooking lessons, painter’s studio…”—you get the idea.

What’s missing from this $7,000 house

And although the Solvalla does purportedly come with most of the things you’ll need, it’s missing some crucial components, like a foundation. Allwood estimates that the cost to build such a foundation will run you around $170, but Bennett disagrees. While he acknowledges prices vary by location, he says that in Florida, where he is based, you can expect to spend $5,000.

“And if you’re putting it on a foundation, you’re going to have to pull a permit and pay for that, as well as taxes and fees,” he says. He advises that people always check local zoning codes and restrictions before adding any structure to their property.

Another missing component you’ll really miss? Plumbing. Bennett estimates that adding plumbing could run approximately $3,000, depending on labor costs. Unless you like to shower in the dark, you’ll need to add electricity too, and that could run you up to $2,000.

Also, if you live in a cool climate, you should take note that the walls aren’t insulated, although Allwood claims they are “insulation-ready.”

Louche begs to differ.

“The walls are made of tongue and groove pine, so there is no way to properly insulate them,” he says. “Normally insulation is added to a cavity within a wall, but this wall has only an extremely small cavity. Without insulation, you could only stay in it in the most optimal climate. If you did decide to insulate it, you would have to construct a wall cavity, which would take approximately the same amount of effort to just build a proper shed from scratch.”

Sorry if all this downer news dashes your tiny house dreams … but we thought you’d want to know.

Moral of the story? Amazon may sell many things, but high-quality, fully fledged homes may not be its forte quite yet. So beware!

“Unfortunately, it will fool a lot of people,” Bennett says.

The post The Terrible Truth About This ‘Viral’ $7K Tiny House on Amazon appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them)

Moving may top the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream – one that can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures.

Problems can occur at every stage of the relocation process, but the most common moving nightmares fall into three categories. Here’s how they typically play out – and how to avoid them.

Bad movers

Many moving horror stories involve rogue or incompetent movers.

  • The movers are late or don’t show up at all. The agreed-upon time comes and goes, but you see no sign of an approaching moving truck. Regardless of the excuses you receive, the inevitable result will be lots of stress and wasted time.
  • The movers are careless or inexperienced. If your movers arrive late or lack the proper equipment to handle your items safely and efficiently, your relocation can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience.
  • The movers are scam artists. In the worst case scenario, you may fall victim to moving scams. Rogue movers will often request much more money than previously negotiated, based on alleged extra services. They may also hold your belongings hostage until you pay an extra “fee” as ransom or steal your more expensive belongings and discard the rest.

The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid such nightmares. All you need to do is carefully research your movers before hiring them to make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced professionals you can trust. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

Traffic problems

Heavy traffic or road accidents can also turn your move into a real nightmare.

  • Traffic jams. The moving truck is delayed, and there may not be enough time to proceed with your move as planned. You may have to postpone the relocation to another day, or you may miss your flight.
  • Traffic accidents. If there has been an accident on the road, the moving truck will have to wait until the damaged vehicles are removed and normal traffic is restored. However, the scenario could get much worse: You may lose all your possessions or receive them badly damaged if the moving truck crashes, catches fire or gets trapped somewhere because of adverse weather conditions. It’s even possible that thieves could break into the vehicle and steal your goods.
  • Breakdown. If the moving truck breaks down on the road, you’ll have to wait for the moving company to send another vehicle. What’s more, your items can easily get damaged while being transferred.
  • Parking issues. The moving truck has to circle the neighborhood for hours until an appropriate parking space is vacated, or the movers have to park far away from your home’s entrance. In such cases, you’ll not only lose valuable time but also have to pay an extra fee for the delay or an additional long-carry fee.

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent traffic accidents or breakdowns. But you can at least reserve a parking place directly in front of your old and new homes, and choose a moving company that has experienced drivers and several moving vehicles in good condition.

Poor organization

Moving involves a lot of loose ends, and even the smallest oversight can result in a disastrous move.

  • Packing chaos. You realize you’ve packed more items than previously discussed with the movers, and some items can’t be loaded onto the moving truck. Or maybe you don’t label the boxes properly. Worst of all, you may not be ready when the movers arrive. All these packing mistakes result in lost time and money.
  • Furniture troubles. If your large furniture doesn’t fit through the doors, you may have to leave treasured pieces behind or request hoisting services that will cost you dearly and delay your move.
  • Paperwork problems. If you forget to transfer the utilities, you won’t have electricity, gas and water on move-in day. If you forget to change your address, you won’t have your mail delivered to your new home. If you forget to update your driver’s license and car registration in time, you’ll be fined. Not taking proper care of your documents will most certainly get you in trouble.
  • Overspending. If you book your movers at the last moment, require too many extra services, fail to create a realistic moving budget or pack all your items without sorting them out first, you’ll end up paying much more than you expected.
  • Safety issues. Make every effort to prevent injuries and accidents on moving day, as getting hurt is one of the worst things that can happen during your relocation endeavor.

The only way to avoid problems when moving house is to plan each phase of your relocation adventure in meticulous detail and stay one step ahead all the time. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing any of these all-too-common moving ordeals.


Originally published April 15, 2016.

Falling Stars: You Won’t Believe the 10 Cities Where Home Prices Are Down the Most

"These Are the 10 Metros Where Home Prices Are Falling the Most "


The tectonic plates of America’s major real estate markets continue to shift beneath our feet. Little more than a year ago, unstoppable home price increases seemed to be the new normal just about everywhere. Go, go, go! It was a never-ending party for sellers, and mass anxiety for price-squeezed buyers. But then last fall came signs of a housing slowdown, as big-city prices began to level off—or in some markets actually drop. Was a housing bubble about to burst?

Well, not quite. Nationally home prices still rose 6.9% year over year in April. But here’s the thing: That’s actually the lowest price growth in five years. And according to the latest data, 1 in 5 metropolitan areas is now seeing decreases in home prices, compared with half as many a year ago. So what are the places moving from a seller’s market to a buyer’s? The® data team set out to find those metros where home prices are falling the most.

“In a lot of markets buyers are hitting an affordability ceiling,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale of “Prices just can’t keep rising if buyers can’t keep up. They are dropping out, and that’s why we’re seeing prices adjust [down] in some markets.”

There are some surprises on this list—including some of the highest-profile markets in the country (hello, San Francisco Bay Area!). It turns out there is a limit to how high home prices can go, even in some of America’s most alluring, if overheated, places.

Some markets are seeing price drops due to overbuilding: This creates too much supply and not enough demand, so prices naturally fall. And just like in past years, in other areas, natural disasters devastated lives, communities, and local real estate.

“A disaster will affect your ability to market” your home, says Orell Anderson, president of Strategic Property Analytics, in Laguna Beach, CA. It can boost home prices and rents in unaffected pockets as locals compete for housing. But it can also hurt an area’s image as folks don’t want to suffer through another disaster. “The market will demand a discount.”

To figure out where prices are down the most, we looked at the change in median list prices on from April 2018 to April 2019 in the 250 biggest metropolitan areas.* We filtered out markets where price per square footage was up over that period. And we limited the ranking to no more than three metros per state.

So where are prices declining the most? Buckle up, let’s take a cross-country trip.

Where home prices have fallen the most

Tony Frenzel

1. San Jose, CA

Median list price: $1.1 million
Median list price change: -8.4%

Santana Row in San Jose, CA


Yes, you read that right. Perennial hottest market in the U.S., San Jose is seeing the steepest declines in home prices these days. For the past few years, home prices in this city at the heart of Silicon Valley have soared at double-digit rates. But last fall, red flags started to appear. Sellers began slashing list prices, with the number of price reductions jumping 200% over the previous year. Now prices are plummeting faster than anywhere else in the U.S.

Time for a quick reality check: None of this means that San Jose has become a bargain. It’s still America’s most expensive real estate market. But therein lies the problem—prices just shot up too high. From April 2017 to April 2018, median list prices soared a remarkable 28%. And even in the San Francisco Bay Area, what comes up must come down. Eventually.

“When [prices] jump that quick, it can produce a reaction with buyers, who say, ‘I can’t do it anymore, that is just too expensive,’” says Patrick Carlisle, Bay Area chief marketing analyst at the real estate firm Compass.

Federal tax law changes also played a role. Homeowners can now deduct only up to $10,000 in property and income taxes combined. Plus, the amount of mortgage interest deduction folks can write off on their taxes was reduced. In pricey areas like San Jose, that can translate into a big financial hit.

This has led dwellings to sit longer on the market, climbing from a median 19 days to 27 from April 2018 to April 2019. Meanwhile, the amount of abodes currently for sale has jumped 92%.

2. Oxnard, CA

Median list price: $681,100
Median list price change: -5.4%

Waterfront homes in Oxnard, CA


In late 2017, the Thomas fire burned almost 300,000 acres, destroying more than 1,000 homes in Ventura County, part of the Oxnard metro, and surrounding areas (including Santa Barbara County). At the time it was the largest wildfire in California history. And that was just the beginning of the widespread damage—the conflagration damaged ground soil and tree roots, leading to mudslides that wiped out still more homes.

In the disaster’s wake, some displaced victims left the area altogether instead of going through the long, painful process of rebuilding. Others who were thinking of moving to the area changed their plans altogether.

Overall rising prices in the area north of Los Angeles are also to blame. Last spring, buyers hit their breaking point, says local real estate agent Kevin Paffrath, of With high prices, mortgage rates, and the tax changes, many stayed on the sidelines, lessening demand in the area.

3. College Station, TX

Median list price: $265,000
Median list price change: -5.4%

Three-bedroom home in College Station, TX

The 64,000 Texas A&M University students that pour into College Station every fall—plus all of the faculty and staff—need lots of places to live. But builders in pro-development Texas went a bit overboard in recent years. That resulted in a glut of new homes in this market two hours northwest of Houston, pushing inventory up 18.3% year over year and causing prices to tumble.

Eventually, investors are expected to snap up many of these properties and rent them out to students. But it also means buyers have options. So they can take their time finding the right one—and then negotiating the price down.

Folks here can snag a new home for a bargain compared with those in bigger cities such as Austin and Dallas. A new three-bedroom home with a granite-topped island and walk-in closets in the master-planned community of Creek Meadows is listed at just $241,200.

4. Bridgeport, CT (Fairfield County)

Median list price: $750,000
Median list price change: -4.9%

Bridgeport, CT


Prices are sky-high in this golden metro encompassing all of wealthy Fairfield County, home to some of the toniest enclaves just outside of New York City. But as in California, tax law changes made buying sprawling mansions in uber-wealthy communities such as Greenwich more expensive. That’s because the state has some of the highest property taxes in the nation—and now homeowners can’t write off nearly as much.

Plus, many of the affluent buyers who might normally head for Fairfield County may be choosing to go to Manhattan instead. That’s because the city has had an influx of new, luxury towers going up in recent years—including the flashy, massive development Hudson Yards.

The cooling in the Bridgeport metro has helped push inventory up 8.5% year over year in Fairfield County. Keep in mind prices in this market have a huge range. There are three-bedroom ’60s ranches priced at $185,000 in the city of Bridgeport itself, and Colonial-style estates priced just under $3 million in Greenwich.

5. San Francisco, CA

Median list price: $948,300
Median list price change: -4.1%

Homes in San Francisco, CA

Andia/Getty Images

When California home prices overheated late last year, it was no surprise that San Francisco—the second-most expensive metro in the nation, after San Jose—took a big hit.

Prices here jumped 10% from April 1, 2017, to April 1, 2018, making homeownership a steeper-than-ever climb for ordinary people. And more homes are going up for sale in lower-priced areas nearby, like Oakland, which is pulling the metro’s median list price down, says Carlisle of Compass.

But prices may soon surge again. San Francisco–based Uber and Lyft just went public, and Pinterest, Slack, Postmates, and Airbnb might soon follow suit. With all of those initial public offerings, workers could be in line for some windfalls. And what better way to spend all that money than on real estate?

“Some sellers have stopped putting their homes on the market because they want to wait for the supposed rush of [IPO] buyers,” Carlisle says.

6. Hilo, HI

Median list price: $481,600
Median list price change: -3.5%

New home in Hilo, HI

The Kilauea Volcano spewed a miles-long lava stream through the Big Island of Hawaii last May. The news was plastered with images of magma tearing through Hawaiian homes, about 700 of which were destroyed. Recovery efforts are expected to cost more than $800 million.

It shattered the image of a Polynesian paradise for many foreign investors, wealthy professionals, and rich retirees drawn to Hawaii as a dreamy second-home destination. And in the months following the eruption, tourism dropped off—a huge deal for a market that relies heavily on the business.

But price declines haven’t been substantial enough to create many great bargains here. This brand-new, three-bedroom home with a chef’s kitchen is still going for $545,000.

7. Cape Coral, FL

Median list price: $300,000
Median list price change: -3.3%

Cape Coral, FL


Last year, a massive algae bloom turned Cape Coral’s 400-plus-mile canal system, the crown jewel of the city, into a stinking, toxic green waterway. That wasn’t exactly an inducement for buyers in this fast-growing retirement town, and real estate prices fell accordingly.

“It was smelly and ugly,” says Mike Lombardo, a local real estate agent at Old Glory Realty. “You couldn’t go to the beach because of all the algae. And you couldn’t go fishing because the algae was killing the fish. The whole [real estate] system here is built off people coming down here to enjoy the weather and beach.”

The Army Corps of Engineers released excess water from Lake Okeechobee in 2018 to lessen the risk of flooding, bringing nutrient-rich water to Cape Coral and spurring the bloom. In March President Donald Trump toured Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee, promising to speed up infrastructure improvements that would prevent a repeat of 2018’s algae bloom.

The contamination was a double whammy for a market hit in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, which flooded homes and also hurt prices.

8. Laredo, TX

Median list price: $180,100
Median list price change: -2.9%

Laredo, TX


Located on the U.S.-Mexico border on the banks of the Rio Grande River, Laredo is one of America’s largest inland ports, with more than $200 billion in goods passing through every year. So why is this city packed with customs and border security gigs seeing home prices drop?

It boils down to overbuilding, particularly at the higher end of the market. There’s no shortage of new homes sprouting up here, which means existing homes competing for those buyers have to lower their prices.

“Homes for over $300,000 are on the market longer than usual,” says Sandra Mendiola Alaniz, local broker/owner of Re/Max Real Estate Services.

9. Huntington, WV

Median list price: $143,300
Median list price change: -2.3%

Downtown Huntington, WV


Huntington is a struggling metro that’s been badly affected by the opioid crisis. Many are leaving the city, on the Ohio River, for better-paying jobs and opportunities elsewhere. That means there aren’t exactly a lot of people clamoring to buy real estate, which keeps prices down.

Prices were low to begin with, so even a small decline can move the needle quite a bit. The median price here dropped $3,300—compared with $105,000 in San Jose.

Home to public research university Marshall University, this college town’s greatest selling point is its affordability. This month, named Huntington among the top places for finding a mortgage under $1,000 per month. A lovely three-bedroom home built in the ’30s with a landscaped front yard can go for just $125,000.

10. Iowa City, IA

Median list price: $275,000
Median list price change: -1.8%

Iowa City winter

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When the polar vortex rolled into the Midwest earlier this year, it brought minus 20 degrees to Iowa, turning boiling water to ice in seconds. That rough winter meant the spring buying season got off to a very late start.

“People weren’t listing,” says Emily Farber, a Realtor at Lepic-Kroeger Realtors. “It was harder for them to take care of exterior maintenance because the weather was so atrocious.”

Plus, there wasn’t as much new construction in the cold. So other would-be sellers couldn’t find a new or trade-up home to buy—so they waited, too.

“It created a snowball effect,” says Farber. As it were.

* A metropolitan statistical area is a designation that includes the urban core of a city and the surrounding smaller towns and cities. 

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Millennial Home Buyers Might Never Come Knocking

Millennials gather at a home


More than a decade has passed since the financial crisis hit, yet the housing market remains in a deep funk. Fear not: A wave of millennial buyers is about to hit the scene.


One of the weirder things about the current economic recovery is how little housing has contributed to it. Unlike past expansions, which have tended to start with a flurry of home buying, the housing market remains deeply depressed. Last year, there were a combined 5.4 million new and existing homes sold. That was about even with 1998’s tally, when there were 50 million fewer people living in the U.S. The lasting slump is a reminder of just how severe the financial crisis was and how housing itself was at its epicenter.

Now the millennial generation of Americans born from 1981 to 1995 have reached the age when people tend to buy homes. They could buy a lot of them. As of last year, there were 67.7 million millennials, according to the Census Bureau. At the same age, the membership of Generation X—the prior demographic cohort—was about 3.7 million people shy of that total.

But people have been talking for a while now about how millennials are going to reinvigorate the housing market, and so far they haven’t. The homeownership rate among households headed by someone under 35 was 35.4% as of the first quarter, according to the Census Bureau. In 1999 that level was about 40%.

A case can be made that the millennial wave has merely been delayed. The recession that ended in 2009 was unusually severe, and it hit millennials particularly hard, just as many of them were entering the workforce. The unemployment rate among workers aged 20 to 24 shot as high as 17% in 2010. It would have been even higher if more young people hadn’t opted to continue schooling instead of joining the labor force or simply stopped looking for work.

As a result of millennials’ delayed entry into the workforce, it is probably taking them longer to develop the financial wherewithal to buy a home. Many also are saddled with higher levels of student debt than previous generations, making mortgage approvals more daunting. Moreover, the tough labor market they faced early in their careers may have delayed other life events that often coincide with the decision to own a home. Compared with previous generations, for example, millennials have been getting married and having children later.

Some of the scars left by the financial crisis may never fully fade, though, limiting the number of millennials who achieve homeownership at any point in their lives. Take, for instance, the belief widely held until the bust that houses were a great investment because home prices never fall. Millennials learned during the crisis that this simply isn’t true. Like previous generations who came of age during hard economic times, they may be less willing to take on financial risks than people born in more prosperous periods.

Changes in the regulatory and financial environment have also made homeownership less enticing, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer. Up until the crisis, government officials considered increased homeownership desirable, claiming it helped Americans accumulate wealth and build healthy communities. That notion has lost some currency, and the 2017 tax cuts actually reduced the financial incentives for homeownership. Furthermore, banks have become more risk-averse since the crisis. Many have become more eager to extend pricey mortgages to wealthier clients than to lend to those seeking smaller home loans, as do many first-time buyers.

A greater preference for urban living also could make millennials less likely to become homeowners than previous generations. Economists at JPMorgan point out that a greater share of millennials live in the central city of a metropolitan area with a population of at least 500,000 than did Generation X at the same age. Moreover, fewer urban millennials have decamped to the suburbs in their 30s than previous generations.

Home prices are, of course, substantially higher in many cities than in outlying areas, and while the higher incomes offered by urban jobs help mitigate that, for many city-dwelling people they remain out of reach. Only 33% of New York City homes are owner-occupied, for example, compared with 64% nationally.

It still seems likely that, as they age, many millennials will catch up with their predecessors and finally buy a place of their own. But when it comes to the housing market, the millennial buying wave may end up being little more than a ripple.

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