Families Flock to the Nashville Suburbs for Good Schools, Low Taxes and Some Southern Charm

Christmastime in Franklin

Abigail Bobo for The Wall Street Journal

In downtown Franklin, Tenn., a giant Christmas tree and Victorian-era storefronts draw flocks of shoppers in search of very merry merchandise. This chic charm is wooing scores of new home buyers, too.

“We love the downtown,” says Daniel Piraino. “We love being outside, walking early and late and feeling secure.” He and his wife, Laura Piraino, moved from Wilmington, Del., to Franklin last year and recently paid $2.1 million for a roughly 6,000-square-foot brownstone that is located just off Main Street.

The Pirainos—he owns an aviation business and she is a pastor—bought a weekend home in 2018 after attending a fundraiser in Franklin. Mr. Piraino, 50, says he felt that God called them to move there full time, which they did last year. They sold their vacation home for $1.8 million. “We have met a lot of people since we’ve been here. We remark on how welcoming people are. Every time we turn around somebody’s trying to introduce us to someone new.”

In November, the median price for a single-family home in Franklin was $628,000, up 14.6% compared with November 2019, according to the Williamson County Association of Realtors. In nearby Brentwood, which, like Franklin, is in Williamson County, the median was $1.025 million, up about 28% from the year before. Demand has reduced inventory in both cities, which is driving up prices.

Laura and Daniel Piraino
Laura and Daniel Piraino moved from Wilmington, Del., to Franklin, Tenn., last year and paid $2.1 million for a roughly 6,000-square-foot brownstone that is located just off Main Street.

Abigail Bobo for The Wall Street Journal

Piraino home interior
The Pirainos’ new house is down the street from one they owned as a vacation home before moving to Franklin full time.

Abigail Bobo for The Wall Street Journal

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated sales throughout the county, real-estate agents say. But the relocation and expansion of corporate headquarters in recent years also attracted professionals. Nissan North America and Mitsubishi North America are both based in Williamson County, as are Mars Petcare and Tractor Supply Co. Two of the county’s largest employers are Community Health Systems, which operates acute-care hospitals in 16 states, and Randstad USA, an employment and recruitment agency.

“With low taxes and relatively low home prices, when compared on a national level, people from New York, Chicago and L.A. see a lot of value,” says Cindy Stanton, principal broker of Parks Real Estate in Brentwood.

Young families relocate to Williamson County because it has some of the highest-ranked schools in the state, Ms. Stanton adds. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, in 2018-19, 77.9% of high-school students in Williamson County demonstrated readiness for college and careers. Statewide, 40.7% of high-school students demonstrated such readiness.

Amy and Brian Maas moved from Orange, Calif., to Brentwood in August because of the public-school system. The couple have a ninth-grader and twins in the 11th grade. “We were not happy with the high-school options in Southern California,” says Ms. Maas. “We sent our kids to Lutheran schools, which was a long drive to Irvine. Sometimes I spent three hours a day in the car.” Mr. Maas took a job as general counsel at a commercial real-estate company in Nashville.

Ms. Stanton’s firm helped the family find a 7,550-square-foot house on 1 acre. The couple paid $1.77 million for the home, which is located down the street from Brentwood High School. “It changed the rhythm of our entire family, being so much closer,” says Ms. Maas.

Maas family
Brian and Amy Maas moved from Orange, Calif., to Brentwood, Tenn., in August mainly because of the public-school system. They have three children, back row from left, Marisa, Derek and Justin.

Abigail Bobo for The Wall Street Journal

Having more free time has made it easier for the family to explore the area. Ms. Maas and her daughter frequently go to the farmers market in Nashville, where they also took a Segway tour on the grounds of a historic home. “And downtown Franklin is just darling,” she adds.

“There is usually something going on downtown every month—a Pumpkinfest, Dickens festival, wine tastings,” says Sean Simons of Fridrich & Clark Realty. “The shops are boutiques, not all chain stores. Grays on Main, a former drugstore, has burgers and craft cocktails. The Red Pony and Cork & Cow restaurants are also popular.”

A lot of celebrities, musicians and pro athletes have bought or built homes in posh gated communities within Franklin and Brentwood, real-estate agents say.

In October, country singer Alan Jackson listed his home for $23 million in Franklin’s Laurelbrooke subdivision, according to news reports. The community is notable for its grand estate homes set among mature trees and lush landscaping.

Earlier this year, singer Carrie Underwood and her husband, former Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher, sold their home in a Brentwood development called The Governors Club for $1.41 million, according to news reports.

Two new master-planned communities in College Grove are also generating buzz. The Grove has a Greg Norman golf course and an equestrian center among its amenities. The Troubadour Golf and Field Club offers a Tom Fazio-designed course along with an outdoor music amphitheater and lake activities.

For even more privacy, some celebrities buy large properties in the countryside. In 2017, Miley Cyrus paid about $5.8 million for a home on 33 acres, according to news reports. Last year, Justin Timberlake reportedly paid $4 million for 126.63 acres near Leiper’s Fork, a little village centered on Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, which opened in 1953 and is now a local icon. Fridrich & Clark recently listed a 349-acre property in Leiper’s Fork that includes a main house, guesthouse, entertainment barn and farm manager’s home. The property, currently owned by a corporate executive, is asking $16.7 million.

Despite the area’s small-town vibe, just about every imaginable national chain restaurant and retail store can be found in Cool Springs, a sprawling commercial district that includes a Galleria mall.

But with that convenience comes traffic jams, compounded by a continuing construction project on the Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway. Downtown Franklin has some congestion as well and finding a parking space can be difficult.

Ms. Maas, the Brentwood buyer, laughingly points out a couple of things out-of-staters should know when moving to the South.

“I really had to adjust to the bugs,” she says.

The post Families Flock to the Nashville Suburbs for Good Schools, Low Taxes and Some Southern Charm appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Locked Down at Home: The Most Popular Home of 2020 Has Its Own Jail

most popular homes on realtor.com 12/18

realtor.com

After nine months of lockdowns across the country, it’s somehow fitting that the most popular home of 2020 on realtor.com® is a house with an actual nine-cell jail out back. This quirky Midwestern residence with an unusual amenity serves as a strange metaphor for this rotten year.

Other homes you clicked on like crazy this year were equally memorable, including the goth-rock fever dream mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, designed by and for Dr. Phil McGraw‘s rocker son, Jordan, and his bandmates. Or the “Silence of the Lambs” house, which returned to the market just four years after its last spin up our charts. Perhaps you’d like to forget a disgusting and uninhabitable home in Queens that wound up selling for $720,000.

But dystopia doesn’t dominate 2020’s most popular homes. Intensely personal properties with wild decor choices also rippled across the web this year. There’s the 1989 vaporwave dream mansion in the California desert, which was shared all over social media. You were also amazed by a pristine, green ’70s time-capsule condo in Southern California. And a puzzling home in Pittsburgh complete with a command center dining room captured interest thanks to its hand-made charms.

While we’re all ready to flip the calendar to 2021, we do want you to look back for a few minutes. Scroll down for the full list of this year’s 10 most popular properties.

10. 8 Circle St, Perrypolis, PA

Status: Listed for $298,500 in September (sale pending)
Why it’s here: Featured in the 1991 film classic “Silence of the Lambs,” this lovely riverfront property outside Pittsburgh is making its second appearance in our yearly retrospective. In 2015, the home was runner-up.

It was sold in 2016 to a retired FBI agent who initially just wanted to check out the famous house, but fell in love with the place and bought it. He listed the Queen Anne Victorian this fall, and clicks soon followed. It’s still drawing crowds of movie fans who want to know exactly what’s down in the basement.

Perrypolis, PA
Perrypolis, PA

realtor.com

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9. 79775 Overseas Hwy, Village of Islands, FL

Status: Still available for $13,000,000
Why it’s here: This spectacular private island connected to the mainland by a 2,000-foot road continues to attract looky-loos. It’s been on the market almost 600 days.

Called Terra’s Key, the 16-acre oasis juts out from Islamorada and offers a compound of homes, a pool, tennis courts, and just about anything else you’d need to escape the outside world.

When it debuted on the market, the fantasy isle topped our weekly list of most popular homes in May 2019, and it remains a perennial favorite of dreamers nationwide.

Terra’s Key, Islamorada, FL

realtor.com

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8. 50-18 196th St, Fresh Meadows, NY 

Status: Listed for $828,888 in June, sold for $720,000 in September
Why it’s here: Fresh hell in Fresh Meadows. This Queens listing went viral in June after a Twitter user bemoaned the state of the New York City housing market.

This uninhabitable house had some hall-of-fame horrible photos showing trees growing into the kitchen, peeled-up floors, holes in the ceilings, and bathrooms that look like a passageway to the netherworld.

The house wasn’t salvageable, but the 4,912-square-foot lot wound up selling for almost a three-quarters of a million bucks.

Fresh Meadows, NY
Fresh Meadows, NY

realtor.com

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7. 11610 Highland Farm Rd, Potomac, MD

Status: Listed for $4.5 million, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: This mansion captured everyone’s attention in May thanks to listing photos that show an elaborate faux town built in the basement.

People demanded to know more, so we contacted the listing agent. The owner built the tiny town to host parties for his teenage kids, she said. It comes complete with a faux main street, vintage car collection, storefronts, and more.

It doesn’t look like a buyer has fallen for the whimsical basement yet. The mansion was taken off the market with no evidence of a sale in progress.

Potomac, MD
Potomac, MD

realtor.com

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6. 480 Ranier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 

Status: Listed for $159,900 in May, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: The listing photos of this one-story residence—converted into a two-story home by hand—show one long, strange trip through one man’s limitless imagination.

Interiors were highlighted by a solar system mural, a DIY loft library, a full command center used as a dining room, and even a Tiki room with sand on the floor. There’s also a hippie crash pad room with water bed and tropical island bathroom.

The can’t-miss backstory of this artisanal abode is as wild as the house itself.

The $159,900 list price included the home’s furnishings, but there’s no sign that a buyer took possession of the command center.

Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

realtor.com

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5.23645 Country Villa Rd, Ramona, CA

Status: Listed for $375,000 in February, sold for $340,000 in March
Why it’s here: Remarkably stylish and uninhabited for decades, the green time-capsule condo just outside San Diego found a giddy following of fans who couldn’t believe the interiors from 1974 were so bold, beautiful, and practically new.

Earlier this year, the home became a sensation. Fashion photographers wanted to use the residence for photo shoots, and developers wanted to gut the place and build anew, much to the horror of lovers of vintage real estate.

Unsurprisingly, the green delight was snapped up soon after it hit the market.

Ramona, CA
Ramona, CA

realtor.com

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4. 4707 Lucerne Lakes Blvd, Apt 102, Lake Worth, FL

Status: Listed for $110,000 in August, sold for $95,000 in October
Why it’s here: This condo is meticulously lined with Budweiser cans throughout, including the ceilings. The work was executed with such precision and passion, that even the Budweiser company had to tip its corporate hat.

The beer brand shared the listing photos on its Facebook page and offered to keep the condo’s fridge stocked with beer if a buyer kept the cans intact.

We hope the new owners have plans to turn it into a beer-themed, short-term rental on Airbnb.

Lake Worth, FL
Lake Worth, FL

realtor.com

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3. 743080 Palo Verde Dr, Indian Wells, CA

Status: Still available for $5,999,000
Why it’s here: If an era could be represented by a single home, this neon-hued desert goddess precisely sums up the late ’80s.

Fans of colorful choices in architecture rocketed this throwback mansion to the top of our most popular list in April. Now the sellers have updated their listing photos, hoping another round of attention might court a buyer for this sherbet-shaded treat.

Indian Wells, CA
Indian Wells, CA

realtor.com

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2. 1642 San Ysidro Dr, Beverly Hills, CA

Status: Listed for $5,750,000 in January, sold for $5,750,000 in February
Why it’s here: This bonkers estate owned by Dr. Phil McGraw went viral at the beginning of the year. It’s worth noting that the TV doctor never lived in this rococo nightmare.

Rather, it was the home of his son Jordan and his bandmates. The mansion was custom-designed as a sort of Tim Burton–inspired acid trip with an edge. Highlights (or lowlights) included black velvet wallpaper, a custom dining room with a wall of machine guns, a snake fountain designed as an homage to “A Night Before Christmas,” and an “Alice in Wonderland”–themed bar at the base of the stairs.

Beverly Hills, CA
Beverly Hills, CA

realtor.com

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1. 203 E Morrison St, Fayette, MO

Price: Listed for $350,000 in August, relisted for the same price in October, now off-market with no sign of a sale
Why it’s here: The year’s most popular home is a residence that dates to 1875, when it belonged to the local sheriff.

Today, it’s a fully renovated home with an amenity few homes have: a nine-cell jail out back. The internet went bonkers for the quirky Midwestern property with a criminal past.

The current owner said the home would make a great event space, an epic haunted house, or even a year-round escape room. When we spoke with the listing agent in August, he said he was bombarded with calls. But all that interest doesn’t appear to have locked up a deal. The insanely popular home has yet to change hands.

Fayette, MO
Fayette, MO

realtor.com

The post Locked Down at Home: The Most Popular Home of 2020 Has Its Own Jail appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Bike Lights for Safety

Don't speed off into the night without a good bike light.

Don’t speed off into the night without a good bike light. (Pexels/)

Did you know that most bicycling deaths happen between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.? When the path gets dark, the odds of cars and pedestrians spotting a cyclist in time to avoid a collision plunge sharply. In addition to wearing a helmet and bright clothing, the best defense against an accident is using safety lights on a bike. If you’re in the market for a quality bike light set, here are the ones we recommend.

The silicone mount straps fit tightly around seat posts, handlebars, risers, backpacks and helmets.

The silicone mount straps fit tightly around seat posts, handlebars, risers, backpacks and helmets. (Ascher/)

These bike lights from Ascher are rechargeable via USB cables. Each light has a one-touch switch and four lighting modes, including flashing and non-flashing options. It’s lightweight enough to mount on a helmet and bright enough to use as a regular flashlight.

Packed with 120 lumens in the front light (and 15 in the rear lights), enough to light up the path ahead.

Packed with 120 lumens in the front light (and 15 in the rear lights), enough to light up the path ahead. (Vont/)

This light from Vont is made with military-grade materials designed to make it waterproof and pressure-resistant. It’s also rugged – able to survive being plunged into water, a 10-foot drop or even impact with a motor vehicle. It runs on three AAA batteries (not included), which deliver up to six hours of continuous use.

Features five lighting modes so adjust according to your preferences.

Features five lighting modes so adjust according to your preferences. (Victagen/)

Dual white LEDs can light up to 300 yards in front of your bike. In the brightest mode, four hours of usage is achievable. The battery is rechargeable via USB and an easy mount will fit most bikes. The wide light angle is a major plus as well.

Can stand up to heavy rain thanks to the durable plastic body.

Can stand up to heavy rain thanks to the durable plastic body. (Wastou/)

Don’t worry about breaking this light from Wastou – the plastic body is shock-resistant and able to stand up to the toughest trails. It can be mounted without tools and just as easily removed for use as a regular flashlight. The USB card for recharging the battery is included too.

Be a Star with these Great Karaoke Machines

Dreaming of being a karaoke star? These home machines will get you started.

Dreaming of being a karaoke star? These home machines will get you started. (Pixabay/)

Remember your first karaoke experience? Are you breaking out in a sweat just reliving the memories? For me, it was singing “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners – a classic one-hit wonder band from the ’80s – in a crowded cruise ship lounge. Not my finest moment. If only home karaoke machines were an affordable option decades ago! Choose your music, practice a few times and then wow your friends by hitting all the harmonies just right. Here are a few karaoke machines we think you’ll enjoy performing on.

The 54 LED lights have a dimmer setting so you can control the party ambience.

The 54 LED lights have a dimmer setting so you can control the party ambience. (Singing Machine/)

We love this machine because it’s so easy to use. It has a top-loading CD player but also has USB and Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream music from any device. The built-in speaker offers impressive sound, and RCA output jacks enable you to connect to your TV for scrolling lyrics. Though it’s able to play regular CD discs, we recommend using CD+G (plus graphics) discs for a better karaoke experience.

If you're a fan of James Corden, here's the right tool to help recreate the fun of his karaoke segments.

If you’re a fan of James Corden, here’s the right tool to help recreate the fun of his karaoke segments. (Singing Machine/)

Recreate the “Carpool Karaoke” experience – but we recommend you do it on the couch and not in the car. This microphone is an all-in-one karaoke kit that offers wireless connection to an FM tuner (or use an auxiliary cord if you prefer). It can stream Bluetooth audio from any music or karaoke app and has a built-in, long-lasting battery that powers it for up to six hours. It also includes independent volume and echo controls. Not even James Corden can boast that.

Engage four-part harmonies instantly to make your performance sound even larger.

Engage four-part harmonies instantly to make your performance sound even larger. (Singtrix/)

Stop singing in the shower or in front of the bathroom mirror – this karaoke setup from Singtrix will help you stage a live concert in your family room. It offers natural pitch correction (thank you!) along with reverb, delay, harmonies, multiple skill levels and more than 375 effects. The 40-watt stereo PA has a built-in subwoofer for great portable sound.

The machine interfaces with USB, AUX, Bluetooth and FM radio.

The machine interfaces with USB, AUX, Bluetooth and FM radio. (KaraoKing/)

If you’re looking for a karaoke machine that can be operated easily by adults as well as children, consider this model from KaraoKing. It includes two wireless microphones (for duets) and plenty of dancing lights to get everyone on their feet.

It can also play MP3s stored on a USB device or import music from the auxiliary input.

It can also play MP3s stored on a USB device or import music from the auxiliary input. (RockJam/)

No need to break a sweat moving this karaoke set around the house – it’s lightweight but powerful, featuring a 10-watt speaker that will easily fill a medium-sized room with sound. The machine has echo control, independent volume controls and four-voice effects.

Our Favorite Pizza Ovens for Home Kitchens

Stop drooling. You can make a delicious pizza home with the right oven.

Stop drooling. You can make a delicious pizza home with the right oven. (Pixabay/)

Ready to cook a fresh pizza in just minutes in your own kitchen? About the only person who wouldn’t love this idea is probably your cardiologist! But consider this: When you have the ability to make your own pizza, you can choose the ingredients you want. Make it without cheese and scattered with super greens if you want to impress the doctor. Or fill it full of all the guilty pleasures you want on a pie. The point is this: A home pizza oven gives you endless options. Here are a few pizza ovens we recommend.

Two shelves can bake dual pies, but this oven can also be used to broil and toast. It's worth making room for.

Two shelves can bake dual pies, but this oven can also be used to broil and toast. It’s worth making room for. (Nostalgia/)

Grandma never had a pizza oven like this, though it looks straight out of the days of yesteryear. This 1500-watt countertop oven can heat food from 200 to 450 degrees for up to an hour. There’s room for pizzas up to 12 inches wide. And it’s easy to clean thanks to removable parts inside the oven.

Fits over the outdoor barbecue units that use pellets. Dinner is ready in minutes.

Fits over the outdoor barbecue units that use pellets. Dinner is ready in minutes. (Green Mountain Grill/)

Baking a pizza on an outdoor grill always sounds compelling, but how do you cope with cooking it on the standard grill grates? This unit from Green Mountain Grill solves that problem – the pizza oven fits over pellet grills. The result is the grill’s heat is amplified – up to 800 degrees – allowing the pizza to cook in mere minutes. That will rival even the best neighborhood pizzeria.

The nonstick plate also accommodates nachos, quesadillas, cookies and more.

The nonstick plate also accommodates nachos, quesadillas, cookies and more. (Betty Crocker/)

If you’re craving homemade pizzas and flatbreads, here’s a kitchen appliance to consider. Betty Crocker’s pizza maker can cook up to 12-inch pizzas quickly and cleanly on its nonstick surface. (The pizza can be fresh or frozen.) It’s stainless steel, energy efficient and versatile – use it to make cinnamon buns, nachos or even an omelette.

The 13-inch pan can warm up food in addition to baking it. It has a 30-minute timer with auto shut-off for safety.

The 13-inch pan can warm up food in addition to baking it. It has a 30-minute timer with auto shut-off for safety. (Ronco/)

We love this pizza oven because it can keep all your party snacks warm after it cooks them. It has dual heating elements and a rotating pan for even cooking. It’s controlled by a simple timer and features an open-air design so you can keep an eye on your food.

Works for any kind of pie, but also for other frozen foods like chicken nuggets, cookies and egg rolls.

Works for any kind of pie, but also for other frozen foods like chicken nuggets, cookies and egg rolls. (Presto/)

This rotating pizza oven from Presto is straightforward, which can be a blessing with kitchen appliances these days. Your pie can be frozen, homemade or take-out from a deli. Top and bottom heating elements – separately controlled – cook the food on both sides. A timer sounds when the cooking time has been reached and shuts off the heat. It saves as much as 60 percent in energy compared with a regular oven.

Why Are Fewer Investors Flipping Homes Despite Record Profits?

Lisa5201/Getty Images

In a reversal of fortune, home flippers enjoyed their best-ever paydays this fall as the pandemic pushed home prices up to new highs.

Flippers pocketed an all-time high profit of $73,766, or a 44.4% return on their initial investments, in the third quarter of this year, according to a recent report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate information company. After years of declining profits, typical gains rose for the second quarter in a row. These sledgehammer-swinging investors made roughly 19.3% more than they did a year ago.

(To come up with its findings, ATTOM analyzed sales deeds for properties that were sold twice within a 12-month period. The profits were the difference between the homes’ median purchase price and their subsequent median sales price in the third quarter of the year. The profits did not include how much money and labor flippers put into the residence.)

“Spurred by low interest rates and a desire for more space, a surge of buyers relatively unscathed by the economic damage resulting from the crisis has expanded the market, raising demand for a dwindling supply of homes,” says ATTOM’s chief product officer, Todd Teta.

“The spike in the number of regular home buyers combined with the additional factor of [folks leaving the cities for the suburbs] has resulted in more buyers scooping up properties, leaving less for investors.”

Investors purchased flips for a median $166,234, renovated the properties, and sold them in the third quarter of the year for a median $240,000. That’s still below the national median home price of $348,000 in November, according to the latest realtor.com® data.

However, even as profits soared, the number of flips fell as the number of homes available for sale plummeted. About 5.1% of all home sales, representing more than 57,000 single-family homes and condominiums, were flipped in the third quarter of the year. In the second quarter, flips made up 6.7% of home sales.

Where did home-flipping profits rise—and fall—the most?

Real estate investors made the most money in Texas on home flips. Annual profits soared in Brownsville, TX, a struggling, more affordable metropolitan area on the U.S.-Mexico border, by 182.9% in the third quarter of the year.

The metro was followed by the Lone Star State’s capital city of Austin, a burgeoning tech hub, where profits rose 176.4%. Next up was Waco, TX, home of HGTV’s home-flipping hit “Fixer Upper,” by 157.4%; Springfield, MO, at 145.3%; and Savannah, GA, at 143.6%.

On the flip side were the metros where returns on investments fell the most. Corpus Christi, TX, experienced the biggest losses, at 77%. Hilton Head, SC, saw profits decline by 72.9%. They dropped in Boulder, CO, by 69.1%; in Wilmington, NC, by 58.9%; and South Bend, IN, by 54.1%.

Only metros with at least 50 flips were included. Metros include the main city and the surrounding suburbs and smaller towns and urban areas.

Where is home flipping up—and down—the most?

Ironically, home flipping was both up and down the most in some of the smaller, secondary cities and surrounding areas that have been attracting new residents due to their affordability. These were the kinds of places where folks could often find a home for considerably less than in the bigger cities.

The biggest increase in home flipping was in the Davenport, IA, metropolitan area, where it rose 18.5% in the third quarter of the year. The metro was followed by Hilton Head, SC, at 16.8%; Scranton, PA, at 12.2%; Amarillo, TX, at 10.9%; and Kalamazoo, MI, at 7.7%.

The biggest drop was in Killeen, TX, where home flips fell 44.5%. Rounding out the top five in biggest drops were Savannah, GA, at minus 43%; York, PA, at minus 42%; Greeley, CO, at minus 41.5%; and Springfield, MA, at minus 39.8%.

Only metros with populations of at least 200,000 residents and 50 home flips in the third quarter were included.

The post Why Are Fewer Investors Flipping Homes Despite Record Profits? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The 2020 Pandemic Changed What We Look For in a Home—Possibly Forever

House hunters wearing masks

LPETTET/Getty Images

Now that the first COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered across the U.S., it seems like the end of this surreal stay-6-feet-apart, shelter-in-place existence is—finally!—in sight. And yet, some of the adaptations we’ve made this year are likely to stick around. First-run movies streamed to your TV? Sure. Gourmet meals available for delivery? Heck, why not?

The same goes for house hunting, buying, and life at home in general. The pandemic has accelerated a shift to technological tools that make life easier for everyone involved in real estate transactions. For home buyers, a lot of features have gone from the “nice to have” to the “essential” column. In our coverage this year at realtor.com, we’ve seen it all unfold.

Here are all the changes that came to real estate in 2020 that are likely here to stay.

Big-city living loses its cool—and suburbs will never be the same

This year completely changed the way we viewed our homes and what we wanted from them.

It turns out that sheltering in place is a great way to find out if you really, really love your home—and being able to work remotely means there are more options if you don’t. The biggest wake-up call this year was for city dwellers who’d long justified the high expense of their tiny apartments with the many perks of urban life—until those suddenly became unavailable.

It’s always been the case that, as young people get older and start families, they’re more likely to move to the suburbs. But as realtor.com®‘s chief economist, Danielle Hale, put it, “COVID-19 accelerated this trend. People are looking for space and affordability, and [the suburbs are] where they can find it.”

In the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, shoppers were spending more time checking out suburban listings than homes near the city center, according to realtor.com research. Asking prices also shot up faster in the burbs, boosted by the surge in demand.

And as the transplants settle in to their new surroundings, they’re likely to make their mark on the suburbs, as well. After all, why can’t they have their single-family home with a yard and more options for dining and entertainment?

As our econ data team points out, if employers continue allowing eligible employees to work remotely, this suburban shift is here to stay. And judging from the number of people who’ve already made the leap and bought a home in a more remote location, we’re guessing it will.

Technology is making house hunting and buying more convenient

House hunting in the time of the coronavirus means relying on technology more than ever. Cruising for home listings on sites such as realtor.com has been a basic first step for years. But this year, with orders declaring real estate work essential in some areas, and inessential for others for weeks at a time, folks were forced to move their home searches primarily online. Some folks ended up buying a home they’d never even seen in person!

And after all, why waste days driving around with a real estate agent, viewing house after house, when you can eliminate many options while sitting on your couch, at a time that works for you? The catch: There are some things that are harder to perceive in a video tour—so you need to know what signs to look for.

Other aspects of the home-buying process are now commonly facilitated by technology. There’s no need to sit in a mortgage broker’s office to discuss loan options, or sign piles of paperwork in a room at a title company. Remote mortgage pre-approvals, inspections, appraisals, and even closings are becoming the norm.

Buyers expect more from their homes

Hopefully, we’ll all soon be able to go back to our gyms, send kids to school, and even, if we want, do our work on an ergonomic desk. But the lesson of 2020 is that you need to be prepared if those things aren’t possible—and that means buyers are paying close attention to homes with plenty of space for work, school, exercise, and enjoying the fresh air.

Millennials, many with young children, are now the largest group of home buyers, and their preferences will shape home buying for years to come.

That means savvy home sellers will have to get their homes in shape for a new generation’s expectations. These days, homes with a home office sell faster, and for more money, than homes without one.

Sanitary features have come into focus lately, too. Smart, touchless options for faucets, lights, and locks are not only convenient, they also cut down on the transfer of germs. (The cold and flu aren’t going anywhere, for now.)

Also, 2020 brought us more than a global pandemic! For buyers and homeowners in the West, choking wildfire smoke highlighted how climate change is likely to affect our air quality in coming years. It’s also helpful for those with allergies or pets to get up to speed with air purifiers and filters.

Homeowners are going to be more self-reliant

DIY projects used to seem like something fun to do in your free time, but when you want to reduce exposure to additional people, making simple upgrades and performing basic home maintenance yourself is a necessity. And once you’ve developed those skills, you’re less likely to reach for the phone when you have something that needs fixing.

Plus, homeowners have always known that doing things yourself is great for the bottom line, especially when you target projects that offer a good return on investment.

“Self-reliant” doesn’t just mean keeping everything running, either. Many people discovered tending victory gardens this year as a way to enjoy fresh air and manage stress while ensuring a supply of fresh produce. As everyone knows, homegrown just tastes better—and once you’ve had it, it’s hard to go back.

The post The 2020 Pandemic Changed What We Look For in a Home—Possibly Forever appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Neighbor vs. Neighbor: Can Communities Heal From the Presidential Election?

The Biden signs in Gaylene Lonergan's Dallas front yard were defaced before the election.

Provided by Gaylene Lonergan

In September, real estate attorney Gaylene Lonergan placed a few signs in favor of Joe Biden and other local Democrats running for office in the front yard of the home she shares with her husband in their upscale Dallas neighborhood. Two weeks later, she walked outside to discover someone had sprayed the word “NO” on them in bright red paint.

The graffiti galvanized Lonergan, who describes herself as a “big Biden supporter.” She left the defaced signs out front and wrote about the incident on the neighborhood’s blog.

“The next thing I knew, people were bringing me signs. I got three Biden signs brought to me that day, and I got replacements for all of the other signs,” says Lonergan. “I thought that was really nice.” She never found out who damaged her signs.

Although the Electoral College finalized Biden’s victory earlier this week, bitterness from what may be the most divisive presidential election in recent history remains. The campaign season tore families apart, poisoned lifelong friendships—and pitted neighbors against one another based on the political messages displayed in their yards. Many lawns across the nation are still adorned with dueling Make America Great Again and Biden signs.

And as President Donald Trump refuses to concede and continues to tweet about election fraud, it raises questions about whether communities will remain permanently fractured. Will neighbors permanently avoid and trash-talk each other, because they supported the “wrong” candidate? Or will once-friendly communities, where the kids played together and their parents made small talk, come together again?

“In a normal election year, it can get quite heated. And then when it’s over, it’s over,” says Dominic Packer, a psychology professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. “This time we have a president who refuses to concede. So for a bunch of people, it’s therefore not over.”

People’s identities and values are also now more tied to their political affiliations, says therapist Jaime Saal, executive director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine in Rochester, MI.

“The healthiest thing for all involved is to move forward,” Saal says. She believes folks will eventually do so, but it may take some time.

“It completely depends on the person,” Saal continues. “I believe there are some people who are angry and hostile enough they would hold a lasting grudge based on someone’s political signs.”

Buyers want to move to neighborhoods with similar political leanings

A household has an anti-Trump sign up in its yard in Philadelphia.

ark Makela / Contributor/Getty Images

During election season, many Trump supporters avoided looking for homes in neighborhoods where residents were strong Biden supporters—and vice versa, real estate experts say.

“People like to live around like-minded people,” says Amir Fekrazad, Maptimum.com’s managing director. The company, which provides community information, has shown how folks in particular areas voted in the 2016 presidential election. “People have stopped talking to their parents and their family members over this. So it’s natural they want their neighbors to have the same political leanings.”

In Nashville, real estate broker Brian Copeland had buyers come in from Chicago to tour homes in different parts of the Southern city. Before they flew in, his clients had been set on living in one part of the city. Once they realized it was a red-leaning area, they quickly changed their minds and focused their search on a more blue community.

“They literally counted party signs,” says Copeland, of Doorbell Real Estate. The original area they were looking at “had so many signs with a candidate they couldn’t stand that they just couldn’t do it.

“The division is sad to me,” says Copeland. “But I understand people want neighbors they can get along with.”

Yet living in a community where everyone shares the same beliefs isn’t necessarily a good thing, says therapist Saal.

“It seems like people feel they can’t peacefully coexist with neighbors whose viewpoints differ from theirs,” she says.

Sometimes political displays can backfire

If taken too far, political displays can turn off potential buyers—even those with similar feelings.

This fall, Las Vegas real estate agent Bryan Kyle listed a four-bedroom home in a middle-class neighborhood in eastern Las Vegas. The home was in good condition and was priced to sell at $299,000. Yet, three times the typical number of buyers had to see it before the offers began coming in.

The problem? The house across the street was covered in anti-Trump signs filled with profanities in giant red letters. The signs insulted the president’s intelligence, accused him of lying and treason, and more.

“Guys like this give Biden supporters a bad name,” says Kyle.

The display was so profane it scared off die-hard liberals as well as Republicans.

“I had a few agents ask me what I knew about that house and what I knew about that homeowner,” says Kyle of the real estate agents representing potential buyers. “There were a couple of agents I talked to who said [their] customers are freaked out about that. One agent said [their] buyers are huge Trump supporters. They’re not going anywhere near that.”

Neighbors have a long road toward peace

Trump flags fly outside of a home in Coon Valle, WI before the election.

KEREM YUCEL / Contributor/Getty Images

Psychology professor Packer believes the worst of the rancor between Republicans and Democrats will die down eventually, but it won’t completely disappear.

“We still live in a highly polarized time,” says Packer. “In a year from now, hopefully people will begin to find common ground.”

He believes folks have more in common than they realize, particularly when it comes to matters that affect their day-to-day lives—like the prospect of higher property taxes, traffic problems, and the quality of the local schools.

And while they may differ on the best way to get there, most folks also would like to see the economy recover and the COVID-19 pandemic end.

“People really overestimate the size of [their] differences,” says Packer.

Taking note of commonalities can help repair strained relationships. Agreeing to disagree and treating one another with courtesy and respect can also go a long way.

“When people really run into problems in relationships is when one person tries to convince the other of their viewpoint in an aggressive and relentless way. It’s hard to get past that,” says therapist Saal. “If there are neighbors who express different political viewpoints but can speak to each other respectfully, then I think they have a good chance of moving past any political divides.”

The post Neighbor vs. Neighbor: Can Communities Heal From the Presidential Election? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Skyrocketing Suburbs: The 10 Urban Escapes Where Prices Are Rising the Most

Rising home prices

nopparit/iStock

The COVID-19 pandemic has really taken the shine out of big-city life. With the usual gathering places shuttered and little space to maintain physical distance from others, many folks are revising the perceived value of urban living and hightailing it to the suburbs—where they can have room for a real home office and a yard.

But at the same time, the inventory of homes available to buy is at an all-time low. And you know what they say about supply and demand, right? You’ve got it: Prices are shooting up in the now desirable suburbs.

Still, despite what many hardcore city dwellers might believe, not all bedroom communities are the same. So realtor.com® set out to find which pockets of suburbia have prices that are rising the most—and the fastest.  And we found a few surprises.

“If you look at the towns on this list, it highlights there are other benefits to living in some of these areas beyond affordability,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.

The burbs where prices are rising the most are a mixed bag right now, a combo of traditionally sought-after places situated near some of the nation’s most expensive cities; lesser known towns in more far-flung regions; and even a couple of popular vacation spots. But all offer decent value per square foot for the money—even with those price increases—and plenty of local outdoor amenities such as parks, lakes, or beaches.

To figure out which neighborhoods are the hottest this year, the numbers-crunching realtor.com data team tracked home price data in suburban areas identified by consumer data firm Claritas from October 2019 to October 2020. To keep it geographically diverse, the team limited the selection to one suburb (with a minimum of 100 listings) per state.

So let’s take a tour of the towns where the grass is greener, the air is clearer, and the prices are steep and getting steeper. Buckle up!

Graphic: suburban home prices
Suburbs where prices are rising the most

Tony Frenzel

1. Lakewood, NJ

Median listing price: $309,000
Percentage increase: 47.6%

Unlike the New York City–adjacent suburbs of northern New Jersey, Lakewood and other towns in the central part of the Garden State aren’t relying mainly on stressed former urbanites for their influx of new residents. There are plenty of home sales coming from folks already in the area desperately looking to trade up—or scale down—in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. All that activity, along with skimpy inventory, has led to a price surge.

Lakewood also has an ample supply of 55-plus communities, where homes have been selling fast as boomers cash out the equity in their existing homes for more manageable condos and townhomes in communities that are known for their social vibes. Older adults can pick up a two-bedroom starting as low at $80,000 in a golf course community if they’re willing to put in a bit of work, or even find a fully renovated two-bedroom with marble and granite galore for just $169,000.

“Boomers are moving,” says Susan Miller, sales associate with Diane Turton Realtors. “It’s a seller’s market right now, so you see people wanting to take advantage of that.”

2. Lake Arrowhead, CA

Median listing price: $499,000
Percentage increase: 45.7%

Lake Arrowhead, CA
Lake Arrowhead, CA

bon9/iStock

One might have assumed a global pandemic would temper California’s feverish real estate market. It hasn’t! In fact, the already pricey state has seen a surge in home values across the board. And its mountain resort towns are seeing the steepest increases. Lake Arrowhead, just an hour and a half from Los Angeles, has seen a 47.7% year-over-year growth rate in sales, and a 45.7% price increase.

The quaint and quiet ski village by the lake has been considered a weekend get-away for decades. But the stay-at-home orders of COVID-19 have led to unprecedented bidding wars here. New part-time and full-time residents have been snatching up mountain escapes like this four-bedroom treehouse listed at $468,000 (a price that can barely fetch a condo in L.A.), and this five-bedroom right near the lake for $825,000.

3. Grosse Pointe, MI

Median listing price: $399,500
Percentage increase: 35.6%

On the southwestern shore of Lake St. Clair, just to the east of Detroit, Grosse Pointe has long been known as the preferred ZIP code of the blue-blood set. Edsel Ford, son of Henry, and his wife, Eleanor, bought a mansion in the area back in 1928. (It’s now a museum.) Basically, if you want to find old money in Michigan, Grosse Pointe is where’d you go.

Prices have been rising like crazy as city slickers seeking greener pastures engage in bidding wars; however, not all buyers need access to a trust fund to get into the market (though it never hurts). Young families willing to do some updates have been able to snatch up cute fixer-uppers, including this $219,000 three-bedroom or this large four-bedroom listed at $315,000. And there’s this historic seven-bedroom Tudor near the lake if you’re willing to throw down $899,000.

4. Beacon, NY

Median listing price: $440,000
Percentage increase: 33.1%

Beacon, NY, Main Street
Beacon, NY, Main Street

Barry Winiker/Stockbyte

Well before COVID-19 created a rush of New Yorkers desperate for fresh air and outdoor space, Beacon was one of the top destinations for Manhattanites seeking respite from the city. As the home of Dia Beacon, a world renowned art museum, a quaint village with shops and restaurants as well as numerous hiking trails, the small town has been attracting a wide range of day-trippers and weekend warriors for quite some time.

Those former visitors are settling down—and driving up home prices. The Hudson Valley town had been receiving an influx of new residents tired of New York City prices for several years now, and the pandemic has turbocharged the trend. Both second-home buyers and full-time relocators have been buying up houses like this $519,000 five-bedroom, which is asking $200,000 more than the last time it was sold, and this four-bedroom raised ranch listed at $400,000.

5. Delray Beach, FL

Median listing price: $270,000
Percentage increase: 32.5%

Delray Beach, FL
Delray Beach, FL

felixmizioznikov/iStock

The sunbirds are multiplying exponentially this year. A lot of Northerners—especially New Yorkers—working remotely have chosen to flock to sunny South Florida rather than shelter in their shoebox apartments. All of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have seen a surge in home sales, but Delray Beach, the culinary capital of the Gold Coast, has experienced the biggest growth.

This fall, single-family home sales in the beachside burb have increased to their highest level year over year in the past half-decade. Condo sales have exploded as well.

Folks seeking a winter crash pad have been flocking toward fully renovated condos, such as this $329,900 two-bedroom flip that went for $215,000 earlier this year along with expansive homes surrounded by large private yards such as this $610,000 three-bedroom that was sold for just $192,000 back in 2011.

6. Jasper, GA

Median listing price: $259,900
Percentage increase: 32.2%

Just an hour’s drive from Atlanta, this little mountain town feels like it’s on another planet. With an easy-living, country vibe, the area has been a hotbed for second-home owners for most of the past decade. However, as COVID-19 has left office workers free to telecommute, there have been far more buyers than homes for sale in this affordable getaway—which has driven the prices up astronomically.

“We have a lot of people moving in from New York, New Jersey, California, and Florida,” says Lydia Spink, a Realtor® with Century 21 Lindsey & Pauley. “Now that they can work from home, they’d rather be in the county versus the city, and away from all the hoopla and drama.”

This lovely five-bedroom Cape Cod that was sold for $255,000 in 2017 is now on the market for $399,900, and this traditional five-bedroom that screams adult summer camp is asking $50,000 more than it fetched earlier this year.

7. Paradise Valley, AZ

Median listing price: $2,500,000
Percentage increase: 30.9%

Of all the Phoenix metro suburbs, Paradise Valley is by far the richest, with the highest median incomes in the city. The area is home to doctors, professional athletes, and CEOs who reside in expansive estates like this $7.5 million five-bedroom with mountain views and this $2.5 million seven-bedroom with a 1,700-square-foot casita, saltwater pool, outdoor kitchen, and just about anything else one could want in a mansion.

Because land in the high-end enclave is getting scarcer and demand is so high, the price of resale homes keeps going up and up—which is getting even more pressure from the large number of transplants moving in from pricier ZIP codes.

“Maricopa County has been one of the most moved-to areas in the United States for a long time now with money coming in from California, Seattle, and even the East Coast,” says Marta Walsh, a Realtor with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. “If you cashed out a big house in San Jose, prices here look quite reasonable even if looking for a $3 million or $4 million house.”

8. Brandon, MS

Median listing price: $220,100
Percentage increase: 27.3%

Before physical distancing became the modus operandi for the world, this Jackson suburb was known for its shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Its outdoor amphitheater would get packed with concertgoers jamming to beloved acts like Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson. But it also has a lot to offer folks who are attempting to remain 6 feet apart from others, with lots of parks and a reservoir that offers boating, fishing, and waterskiing.

So, with the current low interest rates and interest in suburban living, its housing market hasn’t been able to keep pace with the number of folks who want to buy. Homes across the spectrum have been getting snatched up, like this $182,500 three-bedroom all the way up to this seven-bedroom on nearly 5 acres listed at $725,000.

“We’ve got a lot of different price points, with brand-new homeowners just getting started and also folks moving and building their dream homes,” says Brooke Witcher, a Realtor with Hopper Properties.

9. Roanoke, TX

Median listing price: $405,000
Percentage increase: 26.9%

Roanoke is a quintessential suburb with a historic downtown that is normally home to a seasonal concert series, an annual fall festival, and, yes, a Christmas parade. For quite some time, it’s been attracting the kind of folks who want to buy a brand-new house. The area has tons of well-designed, ready-to-build options ranging from a nice three-bedroom model starting in the mid-$300,000s right on up to a French-inspired four-bedroom that starts just above $600,000.

Existing homes are also flying off the multiple listing service. This $475,000 four-bedroom went under contract after less than a month on the market, and so did this four-bedroom listed at $399,900.

10. Wayzata, MN

Median listing price: $877,000
Percentage increase: 26.1%

Wayzata has some of the highest home prices in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. Stretching around Wayzata Bay, the tree-covered suburb is a favorite among families for its thriving downtown, beautiful nature preserves, and outdoor activities. Since the initial shutdown, the housing market has been going gangbusters with house hunters picking up large, decked-out homes such as this dreamy four-bedroom with an amusement room on a wooded lot adjacent to walking trails on the market for $685,000.

To get their offer accepted, Realtors such as Chad Strand of Re/Max Results have been advising buyers to bid a minimum of $25,000 above the asking price, especially on homes priced below $500,000, including this four-bedroom listed for $499,900, which went under contract in less than a week on the market.

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Watch: Talking About the Top Real Estate Markets for 2021

 

The post Skyrocketing Suburbs: The 10 Urban Escapes Where Prices Are Rising the Most appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Fun Florida-Themed Gifts for Last-Minute Holiday Shopping

Time's running out to find some Florida-themed gifts for friends and family.

Time’s running out to find some Florida-themed gifts for friends and family. (La Crosse/)

Florida has a quirky personality all to itself so why not embrace it when it comes to holiday gift shopping? “Florida Man” could really use a clock to remind him “It’s 5 ‘o’clock somewhere” and your favorite aunt and uncle would appreciate tree ornaments with a starfish accent.

Here are six fun Florida-themed gifts to consider.

Easy on the wine, my little pink friend.

Easy on the wine, my little pink friend. (True Seating Store/)

Whether you love wine or adore flamingoes, this bottle holder has your name on it. Our feathered friend has a felt base so he won’t be scratching up furniture surfaces. It’s ideal for “white elephant” gift exchanges or for Florida-themed parties.

This thick wrapping paper works well at the holidays or any occasion throughout the year.

This thick wrapping paper works well at the holidays or any occasion throughout the year. (RUSPEPA/)

Your gifts should stand out from the pack – that’s why we love this tropical-themed wrapping paper from Ruspera. Each roll is 30 inches wide and 10 feet long – you get four rolls total. It’s also a smart pick for table coverings and other artistic endeavors.

Tervis makes long-lasting tumblers - we just adore the Florida-centric design on this model.

Tervis makes long-lasting tumblers – we just adore the Florida-centric design on this model. (Tervis/)

Any true Floridian probably already has a kitchen cabinet full of tumblers, but make room for this 16-ounce stunner. It’s made from BPA-free materials and is both microwave and dishwasher safe. Tervis’ tumblers are designed to reduce condensation for both hot and cold beverages.

Whimsical Beach Starfish Couple in Swimsuits Christmas Holiday Ornament Set of 2

Whimsical Beach Starfish Couple in Swimsuits Christmas Holiday Ornament Set of 2 (Kurt Adler/)

Whimsical Beach Starfish Couple in Swimsuits Christmas Holiday Ornament Set of 2

These hand-painted ornaments could be used year-round to remind you that the beach is beckoning.

If you have a Florida-themed Christmas tree, it’s not complete without these two cuties. They’re 5×5 inches in size and accented with sunglasses, binoculars and even a tropical drink.

If Florida didn't already have a state motto, it'd be this popular phrase from the Alan Jackson song.

If Florida didn’t already have a state motto, it’d be this popular phrase from the Alan Jackson song. (La Crosse/)

This colorful clock is UV protected and weather resistant so it’s safe to hang outdoors as well as inside. A single AA battery – not included – will help you keep track of the time left until your next happy hour. Salt, tequila and triple sec sold separately.

This all-natural soy wax blend candle can burn for up to 80 hours.

This all-natural soy wax blend candle can burn for up to 80 hours. (Homesick/)

Contrary to popular belief, Florida’s “scent” isn’t the smell of sunscreen and smoked turkey legs. This clever candle offers notes of Spanish moss and mangrove wood mixed with vanilla and citrus tones.