Hidden Gems: The 10 Most Under-the-Radar Markets Where Buyers Can Score a Fantastic Deal

Augusta, GA; Cape Coral, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; Albany, NY

Everyone loves to discover a real bargain, whether it’s a discounted lunch special, a mysteriously cheap laptop, or a home. Especially a home! The sad truth: While we all tend to obsess over the nation’s famously desirable, famously overpriced markets—San Fransisco and New York and Denver, oh my—they don’t exactly offer a lot of unexpectedly affordable housing options. And along with the stratosphere-scraping prices comes crazed competition among buyers. Who needs the drama?

Don’t despair! None of this means you have to put your homeownership dreams on hold. In fact, there are places where you can land your ideal home for a low price, where homes don’t go off the market in a matter of minutes, and where you can still find plenty of fun things to do. But they just might not be the first places you’d think of.

That’s why our trusty data team members put on their headlamps and most durable duds and started digging, working to uncover the most overlooked housing markets—the hidden places where buyers can score a deal on a home and land a good job, all without dying of boredom. After all, seeking out a mellower market can save your sanity and open up options.

“In a really hot housing market you might have to buy a home quickly, make an offer that’s more competitive with a larger down payment, or waive contingencies you might prefer to keep,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist of realtor.com. “It’s less likely you might have to make those concessions as a buyer in a colder market.”

To figure out where buyers can get into the housing market without raising their cortisol levels (too much), realtor.com’s team of treasure hunters looked at the metro areas with the following:

  • The longest days on the market
  • Median home prices below the national median of $310,000
  • Unemployment rates lower than the national rate of 3.6%
  • A high number of restaurants and bars listed on Yelp

We limited the list to just one metro per state and ranked them in order of longest days on the market.

“Even though properties are sitting on the market in many of these areas, values are still increasing,” Hale says.

So let’s take a stress-free ride across the country, and check ’em out.

Top overlooked markets

Tony Frenzel

1. Cape Coral, FL

Median home list price: $299,950
Median days on market: 87

Three-bedroom home in Cape Coral, FL

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Set on the Gulf of Mexico in serene Southwest Florida, Cape Coral boasts 400 miles of canals where homeowners can tie up a boat behind their own home and fish from their own dock. Those beautiful inland waterways were overtaken with toxic foul-smelling, blue-green algae blooms after Hurricane Irma swept the area in 2017, which took its toll on home prices for a couple of years.

But the Army Corps of Engineers has been testing water filtration systems to collect and remove those sorts of deadly algae blooms in the future—and, as a result, buyers have been slowly creeping back into town to pick up deals.

“We haven’t had any problems this year, and my phone has been ringing off the hook,” says Mike Lombardo, broker with Old Glory Realty.

For less than $300,000, it’s possible to score a home with Gulf access, like this three-bedroom, two-bathroom place—as well as newly remodeled places with pools, higher square footage, and waterfront views for right around the same price.

2. El Paso, TX

Median home list price: $187,725
Median days on market: 76.25

New four-bedroom home in El Paso, TX

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El Paso made headlines when it was shaken by a mass shooting in August, and the emotional impact is still being felt. But by all economic measures, things have been looking up in recent years for the Texas border town that sits right at the crux of Las Cruces, Ciudad Juarez, and Chihuahua City.

The population is growing fast, recently hitting 800,000. The Mexican peso has gained strength on the U.S. dollar, helping the borderland economy hit $13 billion in commercial activity. And home values are creeping up—11% over last year, according to recent realtor.com data.

“When I moved here five years ago, it was a very different city from what is now,” says Alex Cordova, real estate agent with Alexander Cordova Luxury Real Estate. “It’s a huge, booming city right now.”

The military town has also been transforming into a bigger college town with a broadened research program at the University of Texas at El Paso. To serve all the young residents, the city boasts more than 1,000 restaurants and bars along with 35 museums.

In the desirable neighborhood of Castner Heights, buyers can get three-bedroom homes, in a variety of styles—from Colonial and Pueblo Revival to ranch—for $175,000 (or less). Or you can land a brand-new, four-bedroom home for just $229,900.

3. Albany, NY 

Median home list price: $294,950
Median days on market: 74.5

Historic restored three-bedroom home in Albany, NY

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Outdoor enthusiasts, rejoice! Along with its whopping 1,331 restaurants and bars, 46 museums, and a thriving indie music and arts scene, come wintertime Albany offers more sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and tubing per capita than just about any other metro in the U.S. Still, Albany still has plenty of deals on homes—you can get into a three-bedroom restored historic home in the desirable Pine Hills neighborhood for $189,000.

“You can get a really nice house in the city within walking distance to restaurants and bars,” says Anthony Gucciardo, broker at Gucciardo Real Estate Group.

While the state capital and college town has started marketing itself as a tech hub—gaining some good-paying biotech, engineering, and pharmaceutical gigs—the city has had its share of economic struggles over the past few decades. It has kept homeownership rates low: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 37.2% of all housing units are owner-occupied.

But a never-ending supply of college students searching for housing also makes Albany a prime opportunity for potential buyers who want an investment property and need a strong pool of renters.

A lot of empty nesters and first-time buyers pick up deals in coveted neighborhoods like the aforementioned Pine Hills and Buckingham Pond, a vibrant, walkable area with tons of eateries.

4. Augusta, GA

Median home list price: $224,285.5
Median days on market: 73.5

Four-bedroom home in Augusta, GA

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Augusta might be most famous for the Masters golf tournament—and its legendary pimento cheese sandwich—but it has way more to offer than an annual sporting event. The historic city founded in 1736, on the beautiful banks of the Savannah River, is just two hours from Atlanta and two hours from the coast.

Over the past couple of years, the military town has diversified its economy with medical and manufacturing jobs, like E-Z-Go golf carts, and opened a U.S. Army Cyber School in Fort Gordon. The town’s unemployment rate has dropped substantially, from 5.8% (a couple of points higher than the national average) in 2016 to 3.3%.

But that’s not all—Augusta boasts more than 700 restaurants, 14 museums, and a wide range of homes that cost a fraction of the price of other Georgia metros. Buyers can score a charming four-bedroom Colonial, just 10 minutes from the city’s famed 18 holes, for just shy of $250,000.

5. Des Moines, IA

Median home list price: $292,550
Median days on market: 72

Three-bedroom in Des Moines, IA

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Des Moines, quite simply, is thriving. The city’s population has increased 6.2% since 2010, drawing a plethora of young professionals who come for jobs in the large financial, insurance, and publishing sectors, with offices for Wells Fargo, Nationwide, and Meredith Publishing.

And those white-collar workers are staying for the amenities. Des Moines boasts 1,000-plus restaurants, an annual arts festival, and regular concerts on the river that feature bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Foster the People.

“In the last 10 years, the city’s culture has shifted to very artsy,” says Tim Scheib, a Realtor® with Re/Max Precision.

Because of the thriving economy (the unemployment rate is just 2.5%), developers have been working on a wide array of housing projects for every level of the market. For instance, to the west of the city, a project called Kettlestone is currently underway. The 1,500-acre, mixed-use development features a range of residential housing, restaurants, and offices connected by trails, parks, and ponds. In this community you can score a three-bedroom home for under $300,000.

“These kinds of areas are attracting a lot of families and young couples preparing for a family,” Scheib says.

Those who want to be in the heart of the city—and care less about space—can find industrial-style, one-bedroom condos starting around $145,000.

6. Baton Rouge, LA 

Median home list price: $247,446
Median days on market: 70.5

Four-bedroom in Baton Rouge, LA

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Even though Baton Rouge has seen an influx of restaurants and bars (it has more than 1,100 listed on Yelp) in its walkable downtown, the high-in-crime state capital has been losing population. But as many city dwellers have decamped for the suburbs, the larger metro’s overall population is up 3.6%.

The first-time buyers and young families moving to burbs can get a large four-bedroom, French-inspired home for $275,000, smack dab in the middle of the desirable Ascenscion Parish school district, just minutes away from the city

These areas are full of historic buildings and Spanish moss–covered oak trees as well as lots of parks and waterways. And, since it is Louisiana, there’s excellent Cajun- and Creole-style fare.

While home values have increased about 4% from last year, the market is still better for buyers than it was a couple of years ago. Catastrophic flooding in 2016 decreased the area’s housing stock, causing home prices to surge as a result.

“There was a huge demand for housing with multiple offers taking place per listing,” says David McKey, broker with Coldwell Banker One. “We’re back to a more normal market now.”

7. Columbia, SC

Median home list Price: $239,950
Median days on market: 64

Columbia, SC home

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South Carolina’s state capital might not get the attention of its darling coastal sister, Charleston, but it still has plenty of respectable amenities—and its housing is far more affordable. Charleston’s median list price of $325,000 is nearly $100,000 higher than Columbia’s.

Columbia boasts a solid mix of global companies like BlueCross BlueShield, students and educators at the University of South Carolina, and a large military base. The city has nearly 750 restaurants (including some award-winning barbecue joints) and 32 museums. The crime levels within city limits remain a problem point—the city was ranked as the 25th most dangerous city in the U.S.—but some of the surrounding towns are statistically much safer, and still affordable.

For instance, in the nearby suburb of Lexington, buyers can get a new three-bedroom, 2.5-bath Colonial Revival home for right around $230,000. The town attracts young professionals and families with its highly rated public schools, multiple parks and nature preserves, and its own fun winery.

8. Pittsburgh, PA

Median home list price: $189,750
Median days on market: 62

Five-bedroom home in Pittsburgh

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After years of industrial decline, Steel City has become the poster child for urban renewal. It’s now a tech hot spot and medical hub, and it regularly comes up on national lists of best cultural and dining destinations. The city of 300,000 residents has a staggering 1,800-plus restaurants—offering everything from vegan pierogies to award-winning Basque cuisine—and 129 museums, far more than any of the other cities on this list.

All that revitalization doesn’t make up for the fact that the city is still bleeding population. Since 2010, the city lost 1.4% of its population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But here’s the thing: Fewer people means more housing options for buyers—and better deals. Techies and other young professionals have been snatching up large homes in Brighton Heights for a steal, like this historic five-bedroom for $199,000.

“The basic story is the death rate is higher than the birth rate,” says Bob Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, who says the net in-migration hasn’t caught up to the existing housing stock. “But what you’ve got in Pittsburgh is a relatively safe, culturally diverse, and affordable place to live.”

Buyers who want to enjoy all of Pittsburgh’s cultural capital can get some serious deals in hip enclaves like East Liberty and Lawrenceville, where you can get a redone three-bedroom row house for just $239,900.

9. Knoxville, TN

Median home list price: $284,425
Median days on market: 61

Knoxville, TN three-bedroom

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With its burgeoning downtown scene and location nestled near the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville has been drawing new residents in recent years. Its population has increased 5.2% over the past decade thanks to its temperate climate, lower cost of living, and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%.

That growth has led to a steady run-up in home prices in the college town, with sellers getting about 99% of their asking price through much of 2018, according to local real estate agents.

That might seem like a deterrent—and indeed, entry-level homes are still flying off the market. But houses in the $300,000-plus range are sitting around longer—for somewhere between 90 to 120 days, says Glenda Johnson, broker-agent at Coldwell Banker Jim Henry. That means buyers who have a higher budget are poised to score a sweet home for a steal, like this three-bedroom Colonial in the popular Seven Springs subdivision.

10. New Haven, CT

Median home list price: $279,050
Median days on market: 58

Warehouse apartment in New Haven, CT

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After decades of decline in manufacturing jobs and languishing downtown retail, New Haven’s population has been on a slow uptick for the past several years, and unemployment is finally below the national average at 3.1%.

The median days on market in the home of Yale—which along with a nationally regarded theater scene happens to have the best clam pizza on the face of the earth (yes, really)—is on par with the national averages. Like many other college towns, much of New Haven’s population is driven by transient students and faculty: Only 27.8% of housing units are owner-occupied.

That means buyers can pick and choose from a wide array of historic homes priced around $300,000 in fun areas like Wooster Square, like this chic three-bedroom loft in a sun-drenched warehouse for $335,500.

The market has been seeing a lot of action recently with tons of investors who have taken note of the growing strength of the market, says Jack Hill of Seabury Hill Realtors.

“It’s a great little city.”

The post Hidden Gems: The 10 Most Under-the-Radar Markets Where Buyers Can Score a Fantastic Deal appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress)

Here’s an easy way to get on top of your home maintenance checklist: Take it one small chunk at a time!

Little steps add up to big results. And if you dedicate some time to home maintenance – two hours a week, an afternoon per month and a couple of days a year – your home will remain in tiptop shape throughout the year.

Here’s our easy-to-follow checklist:

Weekly home maintenance

Your weekly home maintenance ritual will be largely determined by the features of your home, but it may include some of the following tasks:

  • Floors: Give all your carpets a thorough vacuuming. Or, if you have hardwood floors, give them a good once-over with a large dust-mop.
  • Yard: Plan to spend 30 minutes performing one small maintenance task in your yard, such as pruning a tree or shrub, painting a mailbox, or blowing leaves and debris from a garden path or sidewalk.
  • Bathroom:
    • Clean a slow shower or sink drain with a Zip-It tool.
    • Spend some time renewing or repairing dingy or damaged tile grout.
    • Clean the mineral sediment out of a shower head.
  • Kitchen:
    • Freshen up your garbage disposal. Run a tray of ice cubes through it, along with some baking soda or lemon rinds, and voila! It’ll be clean and fresh again.
    • Clean the outside of all appliances and the inside of one appliance per week. For instance, if you clean out the refrigerator this week, run a cleaning tablet through your dishwasher next week, and wipe out your dryer the following week.

Monthly home maintenance

These are the projects we all know we should do regularly but often don’t get to. Just pick an afternoon, and go for it!

  • Clean the range hood and filter. This is one of those areas that we often forget about, but if you don’t take care of it on a regular basis, it will develop a nasty layer of grease and dirt over time.
  • Clean the furnace filter, and replace it if needed. This will help your furnace run efficiently, keeping utility bills down.
  • Polish wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down baseboards.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re functioning and don’t need new batteries. If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Visually inspect the outside of your home for problems or issues, such as loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests, or overgrown trees or shrubbery. Make a note to correct the problems!

Yearly home maintenance

Schedule these tasks in a way that makes sense to you. You can do them on a seasonal basis or just schedule one or two days per year to knock everything out.

Here are some bigger tasks to take on once a year:

  • Clean and organize your garage, basement or attic. This is a maintenance task that everyone dreads doing, but it feels so good once it’s done! Plus, you’ll most likely discover some forgotten treasures to either donate to charity or sell online.
  • Wash windows and window screens, and let the sunshine in! While this task is often done in the spring, you can do it any time of the year.
  • Take on one major outdoor improvement project per year, and schedule a day or two to complete it. For example, you might want to install a fence, refinish a large deck, patch up an asphalt or concrete driveway, or install raised garden beds.
  • Clean out gutters, check under the eaves, remove trees or shrubbery that are encroaching on your home, and install wire grates in any holes to keep pests out.
  • Freshen up one room in your home. Pick any room, and give it a mini makeover. For instance, you can repaint it, switch curtains, move the furniture, and add plants and knickknacks to give it a whole new look. If you do this with one room per year, in a few years, your whole home will look terrific!

By following this checklist, you can have a wonderfully maintained home with a minimal investment of time and energy.

Related:

The Decade of the Uber-Decadent House

Le Belvedere | David O. Marlow

At the dawn of this decade, the U.S. was reeling from a real-estate crash and the worst economic downturn since the Depression. Home prices in some regions were starting to recover, but it seemed impossible that values would return anytime soon to their dizzying boomtime highs.

Few could have predicted that within a few years, the luxury market would not only recover but reach a staggering new height. A tidal wave of global wealth poured into U.S. real estate after the 2007-09 recession, creating in the 2010s a new segment of the market: ultraluxury homes targeted at the global billionaire elite.

Pricier and more lavish than anything that came before them, these homes had outsized amenities such as commercial-grade hair salons, hotel-worthy spas and home theaters with concession stands. As the extreme became commonplace, homeowners began to add more attention-grabbing features, such as shark tanks and private nightclubs.

Meanwhile, luxury-condominium buildings grew taller than ever. Standing 1,550-feet high with 131 stories, Central Park Tower in Manhattan is now the tallest residential building in the world.

Today, because so many buyers are wealthy enough to withstand the most severe economic swings, this new sector largely acts independently from the broader real-estate market. So while the number of sales are falling in many luxury markets across the country, six homes in the U.S. have closed for $100 million or more so far in 2019—the highest number for a single year. In 2010, there were none. That year, the highest sale price was $50 million (plus about $2 million of furnishings) for Le Belvedere, a Bel-Air mansion with a swan pond and a ballroom that could seat more than 200 people.

In 2010, the highest residential sale price was $50 million (plus about $2 million of furnishings) for Le Belvedere, a Bel-Air mansion. As pricey as this home is, it pales in comparison to the biggest sales these days.

David O. Marlow

“People don’t realize that there are two markets happening in the world,” said Oren Alexander, an agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “We’ve been hearing that things have slowed down, and that’s true—no doubt about it. But the unique, one-of-a-kind, top-notch product? That market is doing better than ever.”

Home sales of $50 million or more used to be an anomaly, with two or less each year in the early 2000s, according to Miller Samuel, a residential appraisal and consulting company. In 2014 that figured spiked to 23, and hasn’t fallen below 12 since.

In Los Angeles, the average home-sales price soared 153% to $2.5 million between the third quarter of 2009 and the same quarter of 2019, according to Miller Samuel. Florida’s ritzy barrier island of Palm Beach saw its average home price surge 77% in that same period, while Miami’s jumped 72%. Manhattan, which has stumbled in recent years, still had an average sales price of $1.65 million in the third quarter, 25% higher than the same quarter 10 years earlier.

A decade that will be remembered for its excesses, the 2010s saw the first-ever condo sales topping $100 million, then $200 million. In the 2010s billionaires bought not just one, but multiple $100 million-plus homes for themselves.

Some buyers paid tens of millions of dollars for houses, only to raze them and build brand-new mansions in their place. They bought newly constructed, multimillion-dollar condos and gut-renovated them, putting existing high-end finishes out with the trash. They upholstered their walls in red leather from the uber-luxury handbag brand Hermès. The youngest members of the family got playhouses that cost more than conventional homes.

The postrecession flood of buyers has now slowed, and far more home sellers seek nine-figure price tags than actually achieve them. Still, it is clear that ultraluxury sales are now a fixture of the marketplace.

The $100 million sale “is now a thing,” said real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel. “This will not go away.”

In the 2010s, hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin poured at least $820 million into home purchases in New York, Palm Beach, Chicago and London. Since 2011, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spent at least $250 million on real estate. Embattled WeWork founder Adam Neumann has paid about $90 million for six homes since 2012, including a California estate with a guitar-shape living room. Natural gas billionaire Michael S. Smith paid $110 million in 2018 for an oceanfront compound on Malibu’s Carbon Beach. What Mr. Smith paid is more than 1,500 times the U.S. median household income for that year, or $63,179, according to census data. It’s enough to buy 550 Ferraris, or more than 450 houses priced at $243,225, the current median value of a home in the U.S.

“These are numbers that mere mortals don’t pay for housing,” said Mr. Miller.

How did we get here?

A mid-2010s photo of a private nightclub at the home of Paris Hilton.

Lisa Corson for The Wall Street Journal

Back in 2010, Uber and Airbnb were fledgling startups. Instagram had just launched. Many people used Amazon.com primarily for buying books. Many tech companies have seen expansive growth since then, yielding massive amounts of wealth for their founders. Meanwhile, vast fortunes were created in emerging economies across the world, such as China, Russia and Brazil.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a recovery from the financial crisis and a long boom in stock prices,” said Maya Imberg, director of Thought Leadership and Analytics at Wealth-X. “That’s pushed up the overall amount of wealth in the world.”

In 2009 there were 174,000 people world-wide with a net worth of $30 million or more, according to Wealth-X. By 2019 that number had jumped to 275,000.

This generation of affluent people has eagerly purchased luxury real estate in their home countries and around the world to diversify their assets or escape political instability at home, said Liam Bailey, head of Knight Frank’s residential-research team. “Wealth has become much more mobile,” he said. “The new wealth that has been created in emerging markets in particular has a very global outlook.”

Today, he added, international ultrahigh-net-worth individuals typically have at least three or four homes in multiple cities outside their home country. With interest rates low after the financial crisis, “investors were running around the globe investing in real estate as a way to generate higher returns,” Mr. Miller said. “It was a frenzy.”

One57 sits on what’s known as Billionaires’ Row.

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A key turning point came in 2012, when former Citigroup Chairman Sandy Weill sold his penthouse at Manhattan’s 15 Central Park West for $88 million—roughly twice what he had paid for it in 2007—to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. That deal “opened up a whole new echelon of what could be,” said Corcoran chief executive Pamela Liebman.

With land prices high and credit tight in the wake of the recession, developers buoyed by investment dollars built almost exclusively high-end product, Mr. Miller said. The result was an “explosion of luxury new builds” in cities such as New York, London and Los Angeles, said Mr. Bailey, reversing an earlier trend where buyers would pay a premium for established, old-money buildings. “It almost created a brand-new marketplace.”

In Manhattan, for example, new-construction luxury towers like One57 sprang up on what is now called Billionaires’ Row, taking advantage of new technology to build taller buildings than ever before as they competed to lure wealthy international buyers. “You’ve got this arms race between developers, who are using architecture and design to stand out from the crowd,” Mr. Bailey said. “You end up with these incredible buildings.”

In 2014, tech entrepreneur Michael Dell set a new Manhattan record when he bought a condo at One57 for $100.47 million. In 2015, an investor group led by billionaire hedge-fund manager William Ackman paid $91.5 million for another unit in the same building. In 2017, an unknown buyer paid $91.1 million for a penthouse at 432 Park Avenue, a nearly 1,400-foot-high tower on Billionaires’ Row.

The past decade will be known for redefining luxury, as developers sought to wow buyers by piling on the most over-the-top features. “The amenities have doubled and quadrupled,” said Manhattan real-estate agent Richard Steinberg.

It was the decade when sellers put homes on the market with Lamborghinis, Warhols and Picassos included in the asking price.

It was the decade when Miami’s Porsche Design Tower was built with glass-walled garages adjacent to the units and accessed by a specially designed car elevator, allowing residents to park just outside their apartments, even 60 stories in the air.

In 2017, a Beverly Hills spec house was listed for $100 million with a Champagne vault filled with 170 bottles of Cristal, and a full-time house manager whose salary had been prepaid for two years.

A sauna in an East Hampton home.

Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

That same year, a Los Angeles spec house dubbed Billionaire hit the market with two fully stocked wine cellars, a candy room filled with treats from Dylan’s Candy Bar and an elevator clad in crocodile skin. The lower level had a four-lane bowling alley with bowling shoes in various sizes. The house sold this year for $94 million.

In Boston, the under-construction St. Regis Residences will offer buyers personal butler service and the option of having a watch-winder in the closet. “Always reliable and faithful, your butler will come to understand your exact preferences and even anticipate your needs,” the website boasts.

Features now routine in high-end properties, like home automation systems, weren’t long ago considered “super luxury and unattainable to the average person,” said real-estate agent Catherine Marcus Bassick. “What defined luxury in 2009 is not the luxury we would describe now.”

A hair salon in a home in Utah.

Kim Raff for The Wall Street Journal

The post The Decade of the Uber-Decadent House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Most Expensive New Listing: A $24M Property in Suburban VA That Hasn’t Even Been Built Yet

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A $24 million property in suburban McLean, VA, which has yet to be built, is this week’s most expensive new listing on realtor.com®. 

The 1.51-acre lot is located approximately 10 miles from Washington, DC, and it last changed hands in 2011 for $1.3 million.

Permits have been approved for a lavish, 15,000-square-foot design, and construction will begin in February or March 2020, according to listing agent  Fouad Talout with Long & Foster McLean.

“We’re not waiting for the buyer,” he says. “If a buyer comes along now, they could choose some of the finishes. That property is going to be completed the same way that it’s being concepted right now. What you see in the photos will be used.”

The photos are renderings of what the final project will look like.

Most expensive new listing

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Domed entry

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Living room

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Dining room

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Kitchen

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Rec room

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Pool and covered patio

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When complete, the dwelling by Custom Design Concepts Architecture + Interiors will feature six beds and eight baths. Standout flourishes include a domed reception hall, formal dining room, formal living room, and guesthouse.

The layout also features a rec room, home theater, and family room. Outside there will be multiple decks, a covered patio, and pool. There will be garage space for 10 vehicles.

Talout notes that the home is being designed with an international buyer in mind, starting with its steel framing and construction in a European style.

“The exterior of the house is going to be like a French-style chateau, which is timeless,” he says. “It brings the best of both worlds—the modern interior, plus the timeless design exterior.”

Another key selling point is the exclusive locale, which has been home to members of the political elite, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. 

And with construction about to start, all the place needs is a well-funded buyer to turn this house into a home. 

The post Most Expensive New Listing: A $24M Property in Suburban VA That Hasn’t Even Been Built Yet appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Live Like Hansel and Gretel: 12 Gingerbread Homes You Can Buy for Real

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Candy cane columns, graham cracker walls, frosted rooftops with gumdrop details—all are hallmarks of the holiday gingerbread home construction season. But not all gingerbread houses are held together by royal icing.

Gingerbread in home design refers to the ornate wood cutouts adorning the exterior of Victorian, Colonial, Tudor, and other style homes in fashion around the late 1800s.

Dormers, gables, scrolls, and all kinds of intricate trim were first made widely available after the Civil War, thanks to the invention of the power scroll saw, which could mass-produce those carved wood details.The pieces were then loaded onto rail cars and shipped across the country.

The result was an affordable way for Americans to re-create the whimsical architectural trim favored in lavish European Victorian homes and nab a bit of that luxury for themselves.

The term “gingerbread” was later coined in the 1950s, after American tourists arrived in Haiti and fell in love with its marriage of French and Victorian sensibilities. They were inspired to create a new wave of fanciful, light-as-air architecture, drenched in candy-coated colors, giving them the look of confectionery fairy-tale homes.

In almost all neighborhoods across the country, gingerbread homes are still welcome eye candy. There are bed-and-breakfast gingerbreads, cozy family homes, and a few properties ready for a makeover. But they’re all decked out in their wood-trimmed finest, and prepared to delight visitors for decades to come.

Take a look at these 12 gingerbread houses for sale, and see for yourself how magical a little wood trim can be. No sugary icing (or cleanup) required!

182 Broad St., Wethersfield, CT

Price: $535,000

Delicious details: Built in 1890, this 5,500-square-foot gingerbread sits on a half-acre in the historic Wethersfield Green neighborhood. With a total of 22 rooms, including four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, there’s plenty of room for a family to stretch out. This three-story home has a wraparound porch, 9-foot ceilings, and a unique studio and darkroom space, which has been used for commercial photography over the past 40 years.

Gingerbread house in Weathersfield CT exterior
Wethersfield, CT

realtor.com

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3 S. Maple St., Shelburne, MA

Price: $415,000

Delicious details: This 1868-built Victorian has been featured on HGTV and This Old House magazine, according to the listing. Sitting on 2 acres in the village of Shelburne Falls, the home has been maintained and updated over the years. The five-bedroom, two-bath home measures 3,900 square feet. Highlights include a copper roof, wood floors, large kitchen and laundry areas, and attached studio with office.

Gingerbread house in Shelburne, MA exterior
Shelburne, MA

realtor.com

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28 N. 4th St., Fernandina Beach, FL

Price: $775,000

Delicious details: This Victorian is on the market for the first time in over 100 years! It sits on a quarter-acre lot just one block away from Amelia Island’s historic Centre Street, with its shopping and dining venues, and is just minutes from the beach. The 3,000-square-foot home was built in 1904 and has six bedrooms and four bathrooms. The home features stately fireplaces, 10-foot ceilings with crown molding, pine floors, wainscoting, and more. A 337-square-foot guest cottage with storage and workshop is included.

Gingerbread house in Fernandina Beach, FL exterior
Fernandina Beach, FL

realtor.com

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1319 Reliance Rd., Middletown, VA

Price: $415,000

Delicious details: This 9-acre estate includes a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1894 with more than 3,000 square feet of living space, including four bedrooms and two baths. Recent updates include a kitchen addition with white oak cabinets, reclaimed board floors, a security system, high-speed internet, and new exterior paint. Vintage details remain, including the stained glass, and both front and rear stairs. The property comes with two barns, a detached garage, and pond.

Gingerbread house in Middletown, VA exterior
Middletown, VA

realtor.com

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113 Douglas Hts., Union, SC

Price: $109,900

Delicious details: From the curb, this whimsical home looks like something out of a children’s tale. But inside, the Tudor is roomy and modern, with an updated kitchen and bathroom. The two- bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,500-square-foot home was built in 1981 and is full of surprises—like the upstairs loft with built-in bunk beds, and an unfinished basement with endless possibilities.

Gingerbread Tudor in Union, SC exterior
Union, SC

realtor.com

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156 Rockdale Rd., Rockwood, PA

Price: $299,000

Delicious details: Over the years, many visitors to the Laurel Highlands have stayed in this Victorian beauty, currently being operated as a B&B. The five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,000-square-foot house was built in 1902 and features a cedar wraparound porch, pellet stove, and large kitchen with butler’s pantry. Many furnishings are included in the purchase price.

Gingerbread B&B Rockwood PA exterior
Rockwood, PA

realtor.com

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38 Mendham Rd., Peapack Gladstone Boro, NJ

Price: $475,000

Delicious details: Original elements of this 1895 Colonial include the gingerbread trim and pumpkin pine floors. The three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home features a lovely kitchen, and the dining room with built-in bar and wine area are new. The quarter-acre lot includes lush landscaping and slate patio. The location is just a short walk to the train to New York City.

gingerbread house exterior in peapack gladstone boro, nj
Peapack Gladstone Boro, NJ

realtor.com

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13 Baker St., Foxboro, MA

Price: $750,000

Delicious details: Sitting on three-quarters of an acre in a neighborhood of historic homes, this 1835-built carpenter Gothic gingerbread cuts an imposing figure from the curb. It’s filled with details like built-ins, and features a gorgeous glass, vaulted conservatory. The 3,100-square-foot home has four bedrooms and 3.5 baths. It features a modern interior, with a Shaker cherry kitchen, herringbone-patterned oak flooring, in-law suite, and more. Outside, a stone patio and heated, saltwater pool offer stylish and luxurious living and entertaining spaces.

Carpenter Gothic gingerbread in Foxboro MA
Foxboro, MA

realtor.com

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906 Prince St., Georgetown, SC

Price: $359,000

Delicious details: Previously used as an office, this gingerbread home was built in 1894. The purchase price includes Architectural Review Board-approved plans for a new owner’s suite, for conversion to a residential space. The three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom property sits on a half-acre with lush vegetation. Original features include the staircase, mantel, wood floors, and exterior architectural details.

gingerbread house exterior Georgetown, SC
Georgetown, SC

realtor.com

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2422 Rocks Rd., Forest Hill, MD

Price: $625,000

Delicious details: This 3,700-square-foot home is in “moderate disrepair,” according to the listing, and the interiors are outdated. But when the five- bed, 2.5-bath abode was built in 1900, it was a showplace with a corner turret, front-facing gables, and ornate gingerbread trim. It was last renovated in 1995, including historically sensitive updates. The acre lot also includes a pool, patio and changing room, rear deck with gazebo, hot tub, and two-story garage.

Forest Hill, MS historic gingerbread exterior
Forest Hill, MD

realtor.com

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202 S. Acrorn St., Fredericksburg, TX

Price: $449,000

Delicious details: This two- bedroom, one-bath, 875-square-foot cottage was originally built around 1900 and reconstructed in 1995 with specialty milled lumber and gingerbread detailing, metal ceilings, and wood floors—all the better to replicate the look popular in the area during the 1800s. Currently being offered as a popular short-term rental on Airbnb, the home is just blocks away from shopping and dining venues, and comes fully furnished.

gingerbread cottage in Fredericksburg tx
Fredericksburg, TX

realtor.com

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219 N. Harris St., Sandersville, GA

Price: $375,000

Delicious details: This pink gingerbread is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, made famous by Rachel Paris, who set a children’s book there titled, “Silk Stocking Street.” Her parents, Henry and Pauline Paris, moved into the 4,500-square-foot abode in 1900. Many original details remain, including the front porch, gingerbread trim, stained glass, and gold leaf moldings. Other highlights of the four- bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house include a pool, pool house, and lush, mature landscaping.

Gingerbread house in Sandersville GA exterior
Sandersville, GA

realtor.com

The post Live Like Hansel and Gretel: 12 Gingerbread Homes You Can Buy for Real appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Timber! 6 Christmas Tree Fails So Bad We Can’t Look Away

SimonSkafar/iStock

In a perfect world, the holiday season would be a magical, stress-free stretch of time when we slow down, bake gingerbread cookies, and savor decorating our Christmas tree. That’s the way it’s painted on the Hallmark Channel, anyway.

The reality? Trimming the tree—and keeping it upright—can present a variety of challenges.

As we’ve highlighted in the past, #christmasfails come in all shapes and sizes, and this year, we couldn’t help but notice how many people actually documented (and posted!) their very own Christmas trees toppling over.

Most of these accidents occurred at the hands—er, paws—of their lovable pets. Were these pesky animals just curious about that big green thing sitting in the living room, or were they hellbent on causing chaos? We’ll never know.

But what we do know is that the gaffes captured in the following videos are some of the best, most unfortunate Christmas tree fails we’ve seen in a while.

And kudos to the folks who decided to share these Yuletide disasters with the rest of the world, via Instagram. May we all find the same levity when a similar snafu arises in our own homes.

1. That’s not a scratching post

A miniature Christmas tree is about the height of a cat scratching post, and it’s fun for cats to paw at, so what part of putting the tree on the ground sounded like a good idea?

It was only a matter of time before this frisky feline would sink its claws onto the branches and have to hold on for dear life.

The lesson here would be to elevate the small tree onto a table, although that’s not always a foolproof solution, as you’ll see in some of the other videos below.

2. Grab the tree by the lights

This goldendoodle was determined to find the end of those string lights, even if it meant pulling a little too hard.

A word to the wise: Don’t position your Christmas tree next to the sofa if you have pets that like to perch on it.

3. That escalated quickly

It took a mere 10 seconds for this curious kitty to start pulling on this tree, and because of its small stature, have it come crashing to the ground.

As we said above, a miniature tree on the ground and a pet don’t mix, but we’re actually impressed by how little time it took for this cat to get all up in that tree’s business. Knowing they have a particularly rambunctious cat, maybe next year, they’ll keep the tree out of kitty’s reach.

4. Cat caught on candid camera

The beauty of having home security cameras is that you can be privy to all the ruckus that happens in and around your home when you’re not there.

So when you arrive home and find your Christmas tree toppled over—as in the video above—you’ll be able to identify the culprit.

Around 18 seconds into the video, you’ll see the tree start moving, and the crescendo occurs after about 30 seconds.

Thankfully, the culpable cat wasn’t hurt, but to prevent any injury from a falling tree, experts recommend anchoring it to the wall.

Place the tree in the corner of the room, wrap fishing line around the trunk, and then secure each end with hooks screwed into the wall or windowsill.

5. Partners in crime

The body language of these two dogs at the end of the video says it all: They knocked over the tree, and they feel very guilty about it. But it’s not their fault that the tree is full of round ornaments that look like tennis balls!

If there’s a chance that your pets might try to grab ornaments off the tree, be sure to place them up extra high—especially the ones that look like snacks or toys.

6. The holidays are all about balance

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Oh my, I guess Christmas came early this year! #ourgifttoyou #ohchristmastree #hesokay!!! ? Oh and Gus really wants you to know, “But tell them the tree topper got on!” It did. Followed by the rest of the ornaments falling off. #christmasfail #christmastreefail #dyyyyyying ? Bless you, @bethygreenwald for capturing this. EDITED TO ADD CONTEXT: This is my husband Gus (putting our Yukon Cornelius tree topper on our tree) and me (the singing clapping monkey), celebrating the final touch on our Christmas tree, after I spent an hour or so putting up all the lights and ornaments. Our friend Beth was over and, having never celebrated Christmas, she had never seen a tree being trimmed before. So I was like, "Oh, this is what we do! So cute, right?" CUT TO… #treetoppler #dohchristmastree And for real, I swear, Gus is totally fine! Apparently Douglas Firs are great for breaking falls. The tree? Missing a few chunks. But we are still laughing. That Hail Mary reach for the ceiling… Hope you enjoy as much as we did and this helps spread some Christmas cheer!

A post shared by Amy Spencer (@amyspencerla) on

We’re 99% sure this video was staged just for laughs, but we’re including it anyway, because if it is real, it’s a truly epic fail.

This poor guy was just trying to place the tree topper, but gravity got the better of him, and launched him into a belly dive on his tannenbaum.

We applaud his effort at the end to brace himself on the ceiling, but at that point, there was no coming back. Maybe use a bigger ladder next time?

The post Timber! 6 Christmas Tree Fails So Bad We Can’t Look Away appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate.

Simon Simard for The Wall Street Journal

Mary Warren received her sociology Ph.D. at Arizona State University in 1997—and enjoyed her time at the Tempe campus so much she has decided to go back and live there.

The 72-year-old recently paid around $500,000 for a two-bedroom apartment at Mirabella, a 252-unit high-rise project on ASU’s downtown campus aimed at seniors and developed by the university with a private real-estate firm. Ms. Warren said she’s looking forward to moving in and auditing courses at the university when the development opens at the start of the 2020 fall semester.

“There’s so much out there to learn, you might as well take advantage of it,” said Ms. Warren, an early-childhood-education professor.

With state government subsidies for higher education lagging behind prerecession levels after cuts, and with many traditional students struggling with college debt, some universities think they have found a promising new source of income in retired seniors.

More schools are building or planning senior-living facilities on or near campus to cater to baby boomers who view college as a stimulating alternative to bingo at an archetypal retirement home. Some savor the pursuit of academic and cultural interests. Others are lured by the promise of interaction with younger students, for whom many hope to act as mentors.

“There were a lot of things that I didn’t think I was good at in college that I know I am now,” said Elizabeth Ewing, 78, a retired fashion designer who recently put a deposit on a home with her husband at Broadview, a community planned for the State University of New York’s Purchase College. “Math, statistics, engineering. I’d kind of like to see what all that’s about.”

Peter Stringham, one of the student-residents at Lasell Village, who are required to take 450 hours of coursework or activities a year.

Simon Simard for The Wall Street Journal

It is the latest way for universities to profit from one of their greatest assets, land. Colleges have already taken advantage of this privilege by developing hotels and high-end student housing. Now, some see sales of upscale senior housing as the next step.

Lasell University, just west of Boston, built one of the first on-campus senior communities two decades ago. It requires members to take 450 hours of coursework or activities each year. Other programs have since sprouted up in places like the University of Michigan and Oberlin College in Ohio. Some communities are on campus; others are situated nearby and may have only a loose affiliation with the school. Many offer assisted living and nursing options.

Anne Doyle, president of Lasell Village, isn’t surprised that schools are catching on to the concept. While the number of baby boomers settling into retirement is expected to keep rising for several years, the number of high-school graduates heading to college is projected to start decreasing during the same period, because of birthrates.

Bar chart

Wall Street Journal

“Thinking about how you combine these two decidedly separate industries…provides enormous opportunity,” Ms. Doyle said. “One is in a growth industry and the other is serving a demographic that’s declining.”

Legacy Pointe, a community in the planning stages with the University of Central Florida, will have 296 retirement homes. Although located off campus, it will stay connected to the university by offering transportation to campus for courses and by bringing in medical students for research and rotations.

SUNY Purchase hopes to begin construction next year on a 40-acre on-campus senior-living development with 220 homes priced at up to $1.9 million for a two-bedroom villa, plus monthly charges that run between $3,300 and $10,000. As with many other senior-living arrangements, most of the original sale price is refunded when residents leave. The university plans to set aside 20% of the apartment homes for affordable housing. After launching sales in May, 25% of the units are in contract; the university has to reach 70% before construction can begin.

Lasell Village is positioned to offer lifelong learning to retiring baby boomers, who are expected to increase in number for several years.

Simon Simard for The Wall Street Journal

The project, less than 20 miles north of New York City in Westchester County, will include walking trails, a pub and a swimming pool. Seniors can also audit classes and attend campus concerts.

The centerpiece is the learning commons, where Purchase plans to offer a variety of programming meant to bring traditional students into the senior-living residence for cross-generational interaction. That includes offering the community as a captive audience for students in the performing arts, and in the sciences, where working with an aging population can benefit research.

The swath of land represented a unique opportunity for the project’s developer, Life Care Services, because there are few sites in the area where such a senior-living community could be built. And while there is an emerging glut of senior housing as more retirees look to stay at home longer, specialized retirement communities are still in demand, said Todd Shaw, an executive at LCS.

“It’s really been overwhelming, the interest in lifelong learning. There’s something there that’s not just about living in a place that will take care of me for the rest of my life,” Mr. Shaw said.

In Tempe, Mirabella, with a minimum age requirement of 62, has sold most of its 252 units, at prices ranging from about $380,000 to $1 million. The high rise, nearing the end of construction, will have three penthouse-level dining and drinking options, workshops for art and woodworking, and a classroom and library for studies.

The post Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate. appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Ho, Ho, Home Buying? Here Are the Top Markets to Buy a House During the Holidays

Top Markets Where Sales Were the Strongest During the Holiday Season

iStock/JamesBrey/Feverpitched/realtor.com

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness—but also of hectic planning, weird family hassles, high stress, and lousy weather in much of the U.S. Plus “Love Actually” and “Die Hard” are on basic cable around the clock! It all adds up to the very worst time of year to buy a home. Right?

Spoiler: Not necessarily! In some parts of the country, the holiday season can actually be a bonanza for buyers. You just need to know where to look. The realtor.com data team uncovered 10 markets where sales are particularly strong during the holidays. And you might be surprised by some of the entries on this list.

So what can make the holiday season such a great time to buy? From Thanksgiving through early January, fewer people are looking for properties, so there’s a lot less competition. Buyers are likely to get more undivided attention from sellers, and, because this is the time of year when people burn off vacation days, they may have more time on their hands to dedicate to home search.

“This time of the year is a traditional vacation period, so buyers have time to look at homes and not just on weekends, which gives them more flexibility,” says George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com®. “And sellers can spend time showing their houses in a less frantic environment.”

Bad weather bonus: In colder or rainier climes, viewing a property during the winter allows you to see how it holds up to the elements.

“You can get a much more realistic picture,” says Ratiu.  

To figure out where the most homes are flying off the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s/Festivus shelves, realtor.com looked at sales in the 100 largest metros from Nov. 19, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, and then compared the numbers with all of the sales in those metros in 2018. (Metros include the main cities, plus the surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller cities.)

Happy holidays and happier home searching!

Top markets for holiday home sales

Tony Frenzel

1. Honolulu, HI

Median home list price: $669,050
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 16.61%

Honolulu, HI
Honolulu, HI

iStock/sorincolac

The same thing that makes Hawaii such a fab place for a dead-of-winter vacation escape also makes it the nation’s leading place for holiday home buying: gorgeous weather!

And plenty of holiday vacationers are so gobsmacked by the beauty of the place, they feel compelled to look for a vacation or second home on the same trip, according to George Krischke, principal broker at Hawaii Living. (Once they get finished watching Santa arrive by canoe on Waikiki Beach they’ll likely have some time to kill.) Meanwhile sellers don’t have to worry about blizzards hijacking their open house.

“It’s no coincidence that [a sales spike] often concurs with the peak holiday season,” Krischke says.

Resort neighborhoods such as Waikiki are some of the most popular among buyers who seek beachfront homes. Condos in high-rise buildings, especially those priced from $400,000 to $1 million that allow short-term renting, are a draw for buyers.

Looking for something a little more luxurious? This two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,240-square-foot corner unit boasts ocean, lagoon, and city views and is currently listed for $1,665,000.

2. Bridgeport, CT

Median home list price: $699,050
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 14.72%

Bridgeport, CT
Bridgeport, CT

iStock/DenisTangneyJr

Buyers looking for a deal on a tony home in Connecticut’s Fairfield County—located within the Bridgeport metro—don’t let the holidays, cold weather, or relatively high real estate prices stand in their way. And those who can’t quite afford the white-knuckle prices of the famously wealthy enclaves of Greenwich or Westport have some cheaper options in the area, most notably the city of Bridgeport itself, where the median price is just $204,900 (as of Nov. 1).

The city, which struggled economically for years, has been going through a resurgence of late. The North End is a popular neighborhood for families and offers single-family homes, like this updated Colonial-style three-bedroom for $309,000.

Steven Lage, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Trumbull, CT, says the metro, like many areas, sees lower inventory during the season.

“Buyers don’t have a lot of options so they need to be ready to make an offer when the right house comes up,” he says.

3. Portland, ME

Median home list price: $385,050
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 13.38%

Portland, ME
Portland, ME

iStock/SeanPavone

This is another place where Christmastime temps dipping well below freezing doesn’t deter home buyers.

“Demand still far exceeds supply in most segments of the housing inventory here, which means there is no need for sellers to wait for the traditional spring market,” says Kevin Coyne, a local real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

Portland’s East End and West End neighborhoods, collectively referred to as The Peninsula, are particularly popular with buyers. The areas have great walkability and are home to shops, restaurants, and galleries—a draw for anyone from young professionals to boomers alike.

Local architecture is “eclectic,” Coyne says, and a variety of home styles are available “from nice Cape Cod–style homes to large Victorians to everything in between.” This three-bedroom home is listed at $524,900.

4. El Paso, TX

Median home list price: $194,525
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 12.96%

El Paso, TX
El Paso, TX

iStock/4kodiak

The mild winters in El Paso make it a place where snowbirds and retirees can migrate when they’ve had enough of the cold—and get a good deal on a second home. Wintertime temperatures average around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so there’s no cold to deter those on a quest for a new place.

Bear Ridge, High Ridge, and Thunderbird are some of El Paso’s hottest neighborhoods. Architecture in these areas often reflects the city’s desert scenes, with earth-tone stucco, adobe roof tiles, and yards landscaped with cacti and palm trees. This 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home with a pool in High Ridge is listed for $339,990.

5. Harrisburg, PA

Median home list price: $235,000
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 12.40%

Harrisburg, PA
Harrisburg, PA

iStock/bookwyrmm

One of the most appealing aspects of living in Harrisburg, the state capital, is that you can own a home nearby in a bustling, small city for around $200,000. Uptown, a desirable neighborhood for families and young professionals, is full of Victorian-style homes and charming brick townhouses as well as plenty of dining and shopping options. You can find deals like this five-bed, 2.5-bath, 2,700-square-foot home priced at $195,000.

And about 30 minutes away from Harrisburg is the town of Hershey—yup, home of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats chocolate bars, and Hershey’s Kisses—which hosts the annual Christmas Sweet Lights, a 2-mile animated light display which is said to have approximately 2 million lights. Approximately.

6. Kansas City, MO

Median home list price: $300,050
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 12.25%

Kansas City, MI
Kansas City, MI

iStock/TriggerPhoto

Barbecue may not be traditional Christmas cuisine, but it comes pretty darn close in Kansas City, especially in and around the downtown area. Those looking to make a regular feast of it, set on owning near the city center (aka not escaping to the burbs just yet), look to the Midtown-Westport neighborhood, which offers plenty of restaurants, shops, and music venues. Here you’ll find a mix of well-priced homes (including this adorable 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom for $229,000) and condos (such as this two-bed, two-bath with spectacular views of the Country Club Plaza shopping area).

But if you want to own a great home in a family-oriented, commutable area, look to one of the surrounding towns like Leawood, a popular suburb just 30 minutes from the center of Kansas City. There you can find a variety of home styles with ranch, farmhouse, and Craftsman architecture being most common. Check out this adorable three-bedroom Tudor-style home for $419,999.

Kansas City knows how to do the holidays right. It kicks off the season with the lighting of the Christmas Plaza, an event with horse-drawn sleigh rides, and caps it with a heart-pounding performance from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an annual city tradition.

7. Stockton, CA

Median home list price: $435,050
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 12.17%

Stockton, CA
Stockton, CA

iStock/DenisTangneyJr

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Stockton pop up on one of our top 10 lists. The city also made our ranking of the U.S. housing markets that will rule 2018. So it’s no surprise that it’s seeing a steady flow of buyers, even at a time of year when markets in other areas grind to a halt.

The main reason Stockton is seeing a lift, during the holidays and beyond: Its cost of living is far lower than that of other Northern California cities in proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area. (The median list price in the San Francisco metro area is more than double Stockton’s, at a jaw-dropping $933,000.) And Stockton’s mild winter weather guarantees house hunters won’t be snowed in, even during the holidays.

Stockton’s most popular neighborhoods for house hunting are Pacific, Brookside, and Lincoln Village West, and many single-family homes, condos, and townhouses are available in a variety of styles. Located in Pacific, this 2,100-square-foot home is listed at $488,000.

8. Raleigh, NC

Median home list price: $360,000
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 11.98%

Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, NC

iStock/Kruck20

Over the holidays, Raleigh radiates festive energy. And it’s more than just the big downtown parade, a lighting of the city Christmas tree by the mayor, or even the staging of a musical comedy version of “A Christmas Carol.” It’s also the buzz from eager home searchers and buyers.

Because of its proximity to the Research Triangle—a major employment center made up of three research universities—Raleigh is a major hub for high-tech and biotech research. People relocate here for gigs year-round. And there are a number of family-friendly towns in the area they gravitate toward, including Brier Creek, Five Points, and Oakwood. A 2,600-square-foot home in this area will set you back about $525,000.

9. Buffalo, NY

Median home list price: $189,950
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 11.98%

Buffalo, NY
Buffalo, NY

iStock/OrchidPoet

House hunting in Buffalo during the holidays requires a good parka, but locals are famously tough—hey, the Buffalo Bills play in an outdoor stadium, and they’re in the NFL playoffs this year! The frigid temps just seem to energize buyers here. Homes that hit the market in December and that are priced right tend to sell quickly, says Ryan Connolly, associate real estate broker with Re/Max Plus in Buffalo.

“There is a benefit to having little competition that time of year as a buyer—and homes can show quite nicely when decorated for the holidays,” he says.

Buffalo features many older homes with “wonderful character and one-of-a-kind homes rarely found in newer cities,” Connolly says. This home, built in 1925, features a retro kitchen and is listed at $184,900.

10. Springfield, MA

Median home list price: $274,950
Percentage of sales during the holidays: 11.90%

Springfield, MA
Springfield, MA

iStock/DenisTangneyJr

A local holiday favorite in Springfield is the annual Bright Nights at Forest Park, a large, drive-through light display that has been going strong for 25 years. Why get out of your car if you don’t need to?

Save the walking for holiday season home touring. The city in Western Massachusetts, about 90 minutes southwest of Boston, is an affordable and desirable place to live, and its residents tend to stay put, says Elizabeth Eisold, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. This season is a good time to gain an edge.

“The holiday market here stays hot because this time of year is when we see the serious buyers come out,” she says.

East Forest Park and Sixteen Acres are popular neighborhoods, and Eisold says there’s a strong demand for multifamily and single-family homes of any style. New homes are also available, including this Colonial-style, four-bedroom built in 2017 listed at $345,000.

The post Ho, Ho, Home Buying? Here Are the Top Markets to Buy a House During the Holidays appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Top 10 Housing Markets of 2019 for Budget Buyers, Investors, Renters, and More

Daily: Top 10 of 2019: Most Affordable, Fastest Growing and Best Housing Markets for Each Generation

iStock/RomoloTavani

The past year has been filled with plenty of highs and lows, no matter your perspective. And housing was no different, closing out 2019 with a mixed scorecard.

Home prices are still high, and a severe housing shortage still grips the nation. But the economy is strong and lower mortgage rates have made it easier for many would-be buyers to get into the market, according to a recent realtor.com® report. It just depends on which market.

“The big takeaway is, it was a somewhat disappointing year for housing,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research at realtor.com. “The low mortgage rates should have propelled home sales much higher than we saw. [But] prices just got to levels that were just too high for buyers.”

So what are buyers to do? Well, they may want to head to one of the most affordable housing markets in the nation. The financially savvy probably want to get into places where their home’s value is sure to grow fast. Maybe they’re still figuring out whether it’s better to rent or buy. Or they may want to join their peers and buy in a millennial mecca, Gen X hot spot, or boomer boomtown.

Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

The 10 most affordable housing markets

With sky-high home prices just about everywhere buyers turn, the hottest property is a budget-friendly home. That’s why we found the 10 most affordable housing markets for local buyers in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. (Metros include the main city and surrounding town, suburbs, and smaller cities.) To come up with our list, we factored in the median household incomes for these metros.

Not surprisingly, these are far from the biggest, most expensive coastal cities. Many of these places are former manufacturing hubs that have struggled economically and with higher unemployment. And they tend to be in the Rust Belt and Midwest, where prices are the lowest.

“These are smaller, more remote areas, and they are the last affordable pockets in the country,” says Vivas. “They’re latecomers to the economic boom.”

In Youngstown, OH, the most affordable metro in the nation, about 67% of locals can afford a median-priced home there of $120,050 as of Nov. 1, according to realtor.com listing data. It was followed by Akron, OH, at 63%, with a median list price of $157,050; Dayton, OH, at 61% and $167,950; Toledo, OH, at 60% and $154,950; Allentown, PA, at 59% and $243,050; St. Louis, at 59% and $219,950; Scranton PA, at 59% and $160,050; Pittsburgh, at 56% and $195,050; Des Moines, IA, at 56% and $259,950; and Syracuse, NY, at 55% and $179,950.

10 most affordable metros

  1. Youngstown, OH
  2. Akron, OH
  3. Dayton, OH
  4. Toledo, OH
  5. Allentown, PA
  6. St. Louis, MO
  7. Scranton, PA
  8. Pittsburgh, PA (tied)
  9. Des Moines, IA (tied)
  10. Syracuse, NY

Where prices are rising the most

Buyers in these markets will want to act fast—before they’re priced out. The metros with the highest appreciation are still relatively affordable (although not for long!) and are often alternatives to more expensive, biggest cities. They tend to have growing economies, luring new residents. In other words, they’re generally a good investment.

We identified these markets by looking at the year-over-year change in median sales prices.

One of our top metros, Boise, ID, is popular with young professionals and tech professionals fleeing the high cost of living in nearby California. The emerging tech hub is appealing due to its good-paying jobs as well as the many outdoorsy activities, cultural amenities, and innovative places to grab a cocktail and dinner.

“They’re lower-priced, and you’re buying into a place … [where] more people are moving into the area,” says Vivas. “This year we saw an expansion of [smaller, nearby] cities absorbing buyers who were priced out of the overheated, higher-cost markets.”

In Boise, prices rose 10.1%, to hit a median list price of $365,040 as of Nov. 1, according to realtor.com data. It was tied with Syracuse, NY, up 10.1%, to $179,950. They were followed by Youngstown, OH, up 9.5%, to $120,050; Indianapolis, up 9.3%, to $259,950; Greensboro, NC, up 9%, to $264,950; Minneapolis, up 8.9%, to $343,040; Cincinnati, up 8.8%, to $260,050; Knoxville, TN, up 8.5%, to $284,950; Louisville, KY, up 8.1%, to $244,950; and Spokane, WA, up 3.4%, to $349,950.

10 fastest-appreciating housing markets

  1. Boise, ID
  2. Syracuse, NY
  3. Youngstown, OH
  4. Indianapolis
  5. Greensboro, NC
  6. Minneapolis
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Knoxville, TN
  9. Louisville, KY
  10. Spokane, WA

Best places to rent—and the best places to buy

The big question on many folks’ minds is whether it’s financially better to continue renting—or take the plunge and buy a home. So we found the counties where it’s cheapest for locals making the median income to rent or purchase their abode. Not surprisingly, it makes the most sense to rent in priciest parts of the nation. And buying is best in the cheapest parts of the country, although there aren’t as many good-paying jobs.

The best places to rent are the overheated markets, says Vivas.

“Price points are out of reach. In most of them, you have to be in the top 10% of incomes to afford the typical house,” he says, adding that the best places to buy “have weaker economies compared to the rest of the country and demand for homes is lower.”

10 best counties to rent a home

  1. New York County, NY (Manhattan), $1,600,050 (median county home list price)
  2. Kings County, NY (Brooklyn), $825,050
  3. Santa Barbara County, CA, $1,389,050
  4. Monterey County, CA, $1,050,050
  5. Santa Cruz County, CA, $950,050
  6. Marin County, CA, $1,475,050
  7. San Mateo County, CA, $1,499,950
  8. San Francisco County, CA, $1,495,050
  9. Napa County, CA, $979,050
  10. Suffolk County, MA (Boston), $809,050

10 best counties to buy a home

  1. Clayton County, GA, $158,050 (median county home list price)
  2. Richmond County, GA, $125,050
  3. Baltimore City, MD, $174,950
  4. Cumberland County, NJ, $145,050
  5. Vigo County, IN, $92,550
  6. Muscogee County, GA, $159,950
  7. Hampton City County, VA, $195,050
  8. Wayne County, MI (Detroit), $130,050
  9. Fayette County, PA, $144,950
  10. Schuylkill County, PA, $99,050

Top millennial markets

The top markets for the millennial set aren’t the more glamorous, trendy cities on the higher-priced coasts boasting the best music festivals and hottest restaurants and bars. Instead, they’re smaller, more affordable metros with lots of good jobs. A lot of them, such as Grand Rapids, MI, which topped our list, are also college towns boasting a popular beer brewing culture as well.

To find where millennials are heading, we looked at the metros where millennials took out the most purchase mortgages in the third quarter of 2018 and 2019.

  1. Grand Rapids, MI, $279,950 (median list price)
  2. Salt Lake City, UT, $439,050
  3. Scranton, PA, $160,050
  4. Madison, WI, $348,850
  5. Colorado Springs, CO, $435,050
  6. Allentown, PA, $243,050
  7. Rochester, NY, $202,950
  8. Portland, ME, $385,050
  9. Providence, RI, $375,050
  10. Minneapolis, MN, $343,040

Top Generation X markets

Gen Xers are often (but certainly not always) less concerned with the local beer and music scene and more worried about good school districts. These folks are typically making more money than the millennials, so they can afford to spend more on a home. But they often need more space for their families, the kids, and/or their aging parents. And they’re looking more in the suburbs.

The top picks for Gen Xers are not necessarily cheap, as they have stronger economies, Vivas says. But they do have relatively good affordability when it comes to square footage.

  1. Memphis, TN, $234,950 (median list price)
  2. Los Angeles, CA, $859,050
  3. Bridgeport, CT, $699,050
  4. Lakeland, FL, $230,050
  5. Louisville, KY, $244,950
  6. Raleigh, NC, $359,950
  7. Knoxville, TN, $284,950
  8. Stockton, CA, $435,050
  9. McAllen, TX, $197,550
  10. San Jose, CA, $1,099,050

Top baby boomer markets

Baby boomers are often less concerned with thriving job markets and living in huge houses (as hopefully their children have flown the coop). They often want to live in warmer climates with top-notch health care facilities where their dollars will stretch.

That’s why almost all the metros on this list offer good value, says Vivas.

  1. Tucson, AZ, $287,650 (median list price)
  2. Cape Coral, FL, $310,050
  3. Albuquerque, NM, $269,950
  4. Spokane, WA, $349,950
  5. Greenville, SC, $269,950
  6. Dayton, OH, $167,950
  7. Akron, OH, $157,050
  8. North Port, FL, $365,900
  9. Deltona, FL, $284,550
  10. Honolulu, HI, $669,050

The post Top 10 Housing Markets of 2019 for Budget Buyers, Investors, Renters, and More appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 New Year’s Resolutions That Can Help You Buy a Home

Thinking of buying a home this year? We compiled five New Year’s resolutions that can help you keep your financial resume in tiptop shape.

1. Avoid job hopping

Employment history and income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating a mortgage application. A new job may be a good career move, but if you plan to buy a home in the new year, know that job hopping can be a red flag to some underwriters – especially if you’re moving to a different industry.

A steady job history and few or no gaps in employment over the past two years are ideal, as it helps lenders more easily forecast your future income.

If you do get a new job while home shopping, let your lender know as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage – just be prepared to show extra documentation.

If you’re moving from a commissioned or hourly job to one that’s salaried with equal or more compensation, it may help your application. Lenders often prefer borrowers to have steady, predictable paychecks.

2. Limit monthly subscription services

Monthly subscription services are certainly convenient, but they can add up. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, you could be dinged for high credit utilization if your credit report is pulled midcycle.

If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, consider keeping your monthly subscription services to a minimum.

3. Build a solid credit history

One of the first things a lender will look at is your credit history. Lenders prefer borrowers who have a history of paying off credits cards and other debts on time – because it signals that you’re a responsible borrower and less of a risk.

If you don’t have credit, securing a home loan may be significantly more challenging and time-consuming, but not impossible. Records of paying rent and utilities on time, as well as student loan debt or cell phone bills, can help show a potential lender that you have a history of managing monthly payments.

4. Check your credit

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate.

Just a few percentage point differences in an interest rate can cost you thousands over the life of a loan. Monitor your credit closely, especially for fraudulent activity, to prevent any surprises that could delay the loan application process.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, many financial websites offer credit score monitoring, or you can get a full credit report once a year.

5. Avoid large purchases

Avoid taking on large amounts of debt – whether it’s buying a car or planning a large vacation – before buying a house. This is advisable even if you’re already preapproved.

Your debt-to-income ratio, or how much money you make compared to how much debt you have, can significantly affect how much money a lender is willing to give you. Keeping debts to a minimum can help make the home-buying process go a lot more smoothly.

Just like proofreading your resume before you apply for a job, cleaning up your financial resume can help improve your chances of buying a home.

Take advantage of online tools and resources, like our affordability calculator, which can help you determine how much home you can afford. Our mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates. And as you search for your future home, check out our extensive lender and agent reviews, which can help you find the best real estate partners for your needs.

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Originally published January 2018