When a young housewife’s body was discovered mutilated in her own home, the gruesome crime sent shockwaves through the small Dallas suburb where she lived. Residents began locking their doors. Some speculated it was a drifter.
Few could believe that a popular, church-going mother of two, Candy Montgomery, had struck her friend BettyGore 41 times with an ax and then took a shower in the home to wash off all the blood.
Gore’s mutilated body was discovered in the utility room of her nondescript, single-level, brick home in Wylie, TX, on Friday the 13th of June 1980. Montgomery, who had an affair with Gore’s husband, Allan, claimed she killed Betty in self-defense after Betty confronted her about the affair. Montgomery was acquitted by a jury.
Forty years later, the shocking ax murder is back in the spotlight with the release of a five-part Hulu series titled “Candy.” Starring Jessica Biel, the series is slated to premiere on Monday. HBO Max is reportedly working on its own limited series called “Love and Death,” starring Elizabeth Olsen. No release date has been announced.
The home of Betty and Allan Gore and their two young children has sold at least a half-dozen times since the murder. Most recently, the newly renovated, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house was listed in March of this year for $344,900 and sold a few weeks later—for over the asking price, according to the seller’s real estate agent. A couple purchased the house.
“It looks like a normal house,” says local real estate agent Darla McMullen, of Monument Realty. She represented the sellers in the sale and had represented them when they bought it in 2020. “It’s been remodeled enough that it’s a different flow” from when the murder happened.
Famous murder homes rarely sell quickly—or for more than the list price. Often these properties linger on the market and close at a 10% to 25% discount, depending on the severity of the crime and how much publicity it received, says real estate appraiser Randall Bell, CEO of Landmark Research Group.
“When [the crime is] more graphically violent, it tends to have a more negative effect on the property values,” says Bell. He specializes in this kind of real estate where a tragedy or disaster occurred. “Some of these cases can linger on for decades or even centuries.”
The location of the home might also worsen the stigma. Murders are more common in big cities than in small towns, where it can be the biggest news for decades.
However, that might not matter much in such a hot real estate market where buyers can’t find homes for sale due to a severe housing shortage, says McMullen. Her clients bought the Gore home sight unseen in September 2020 as they were relocating from out of state. They paid $251,750, according to McMullen and property records. After a year and a half, they sold the property, as their family had expanded and they needed more space.
“They didn’t have any clue about [the history] when they fell in love with the house,” she says. And when they learned of it, they weren’t deterred. Apparently, one of them had grown up in a home whose previous owner had been a serial killer.
It was only at the end of their tenure in the home, with the news of the Hulu and HBO Max shows, that folks began driving by and taking photos of the property.
McMullen disclosed Gore’s death in the listing this March. But it didn’t turn off prospective buyers: More than 40 folks attended the recent open house. Several put in offers over the asking price, she says.
The house, which sits on a fifth of an acre, has granite countertops, vaulted ceilings in the living room, and a patio, according to Realtor.com®.
“It’s beautiful,” McMullen says of the property. “I never felt weird or anything” being inside.
This isn’t the first time that Hollywood explored the gruesome crime. Two journalists published the book “Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs” in 1984. It served as a basis for the TV movie “Killing in a Small Town.” Actress Barbara Hershey, who played a fictionalized version of Montgomery, won an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for her performance.
Betty Gore, a fifth-grade teacher, was just 29 when she was killed. Her husband reportedly moved away from Wylie and remarried, but that relationship ended in divorce, according to the Dallas Morning News. The couple’s daughters were raised by Betty’s mother.
Montgomery also divorced. She moved to Georgia and became a family counselor, according to the Daily Mail.
Americans still hold onto the dream of homeownership—but rising prices are giving them pause.
Markets plungedThursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite closing down and shedding Wednesday’s gains.
A new poll from Gallup found that only 30% of Americans believe now is a good time to buy a house. It’s the lowest level on record since Gallup began surveying Americans on this question beginning in 1978, and it’s the first time less than 50% of people across the country thought it was a good time to buy.
In other words, even at the height of the foreclosure crisis amid the Great Recession at least 50% of Americans thought the time was right to purchase a home. But today, with home prices and mortgage rates rising, people are growing concerned about taking the plunge.
“Americans’ much more negative assessments of the current housing market may also keep them from looking to buy, which could lead to a slowdown in home sales” Gallup noted in the report. “If that happens, it would reduce the demand for houses and could lead to a decline in home values.”
Gallup’s survey found that attitudes toward buying a home grew more pessimistic in every region of the country and across all subgroups, including among both renters and homeowners. The largest drop-off occurred among suburban residents. Last year, 60% of these residents said it was a good time to buy, versus just 27% in the survey Gallup conducted in April.
Young adults were the most likely to have a negative outlook on buying a home. Only 25% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 believe the timing is right to become a homeowner.
Underpinning Americans’ growing pessimism toward the housing market is the expectation that home prices will continue to rise. Gallup reported that 70% of respondents said they expect the average price of homes in their area to increase over the next year, versus 18% who expect them to stay the same and 12% who believe they will drop.
Despite most people expecting homeownership to be a harder goal to achieve, Americans still tend to view it as the best long-term investment. Nearly half of the people Gallup polled (45%) said that real estate was the best long-term investment, while 24% said stocks and 15% said gold.
Homes on private islands always attract clicks—especially when they come with an intriguing backstory.
This particular megamansion on a 348-acre island in Montana has yet to be finished. That potent combo of luxurious location with a half-done home made the $72 million island this week’s most popular listing on Realtor.com®.
Construction on the home began in the 1990s after Robert M. Lee, founder of the luxury goods brand Hunting World, bought the island in 1989. Only the exterior was in place when Lee died in 2016. The residence will need the new owner to finish the job.
Also drawing the clicks were a beautiful red barn-style home in Indiana, a cozy log cabin in Ohio, and retired catcher Buster Posey‘s ranch in Northern California.
For a full look at the week’s 10 most popular homes, simply scroll on down.
Why it’s here: A bargain mansion? The Oscar J. Rathbun Mansion was built in 1868 and still features a number of original details.
The Italianate brownstone boasts nearly 5,000 square feet of space, including five bedrooms. The parlor features an original terra-cotta fireplace while the living room has hand-painted Italian rosettes and hand-carved arches with Corinthian columns. There are numerous built-ins, six fireplaces, coffered ceilings, and paneled walls throughout.
Why it’s here: This fabulous midcentury modern home was built in 1964 on a wooded lot in a nature preserve.
Designed by the former director of the Des Moines Art Center, the three-bedroom residence features floor-to-ceiling windows, refinished wood floors, beamed ceilings, and a greenhouse. The kitchen has quartz countertops and a waterfall island. A detached shop and art studio were recently added.
Why it’s here: You, too, can live like a three-time World Champion. Now retired and headed back to Georgia, former San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey wants to sell his spectacular sportsman ranch. The 100-acre property includes a main lodge, two-story barn, caretaker’s house, and shop.
The 3,340-square-foot main house was built in 2008 and has five bedrooms, two of which are primary suites.
Why it’s here: Round and oh, so attractive, this Jetsons-style midcentury home was inspired by the circular design of the nearby Hilton Leech Art Studio.
Renovated from top to bottom, the two-bedroom house features a unique circular floor plan with a bathroom at the center. In the loo, there’s an oversized shower/concrete bathtub plus an original kidney-shaped vanity.
As the exterior shows, the retro home doesn’t have many windows, but the vintage design and appliances will keep you feeling plenty cool.
Why it’s here: At 348 acres, Cromwell Island in the middle of Flathead Lake is the largest private island west of the Mississippi River. And the megamansion on the island certainly appears grand, but it’s completely empty inside.
For a buyer in search of seclusion, it’s an intriguing offer. Time will tell if a new owner decides to keep the empty villa.
HGTV star Jasmine Roth has been busy these days, in some surprising places.
Many have seen Roth help homeowners fix their DIY disasters on her show “Help! I Wrecked My House,” which was recently renewed for a third season. In the meantime, she headed to Buffalo, WY, along with Ty Pennington, to pitch in on Ben and Erin Napier‘s new show, “Home Town Kickstart,” which aims to revitalize small towns across America.
And while Roth currently lives in Los Angeles, it just so happens that she grew up in a small town, too. Here’s what Roth loves about these close-knit communities, plus what we can look forward to in the next season of “Help! I Wrecked My House.”
What was your most memorable part of working on ‘Home Town Kickstart’?
Working with Ty Pennington! I’m here to tell you that every moment is a memorable moment, and he is one of the most outgoing, fun-loving, and just genuine people you’ve ever been around. We worked really hard, but we also had a really great time.
I grew up in a small town in Virginia, and so it almost felt like going home. It was so fun to be able to spend an extended period of time in a small town and remember how small towns really do a great job of keeping what’s important kind of at the forefront.
They are about community and giving back to each other and knowing your neighbor, knowing what’s kind of going on with everybody, but in a nice way.
You know, it’s very nice to be a part of something that you feel so connected to, and so I think Buffalo was a really great example of a town that has their priorities straight. So it was actually really refreshing to spend time there and talk to the folks there, and then it helped me kind of clear my head and come back to California with this really great, new perspective.
In that episode you renovated a movie theater. What challenges did that present?
This may come as a surprise, but neither Ty nor myself had ever renovated a movie theater before. But it was so much fun!
The first thing that we did was figure out, like, what we could save. There were some really cool architectural features like the copper and wood on the ceiling.
I think that was something that we do in our own homes and that I tried to do with my clients and that everyone should do.
If you are going to do some sort of a renovation, start out looking for what you can save and what really makes the space have that character that you really can’t get when you just do new construction.
So once we identified the things we wanted to keep, then we went in and ripped everything else out and started putting it all back together.
You also renovated the home of a military veteran. Did you add any upgrades in this house that you think may catch on?
The homeowner, Leishaan Crane, was one of the most service-oriented people I’ve ever met in my life. And when she started telling me about what she had sacrificed for our country and for her community, there was not a dry eye. So I wanted to make sure that her home felt special.
I went to the local pottery studio, and we were able to make handcrafted tile, which I have never done before. Like, I actually painted tiles for Leishaan’s backsplash, which was an amazing experience.
Did you bring back any mementos from Buffalo for your own home?
While I was there, I bought some new, really nice, locally made ramen bowls, stamped that they’re from Wyoming and from a local artist there. They’re like oversized bowls that I’ve been searching for that my husband and I don’t have already, and we love having big bowls of hot, steaming noodles.
Does ‘Home Town Kickstart’ have any lessons for homeowners who want to renovate on a tight budget?
One of our projects is literally just paint. We painted this beautiful mural. Mind you, it took a lot of creativity and there was a wonderful local artist that we worked with. But at the end of the day, it was a big blank wall and some paint, and it made such a difference. So I think my advice would be: Don’t underestimate the power of paint. That’s a really great, inexpensive way to make a big difference in your home.
The second thing would be just to personalize, because what we were able to do with the theater project and with our home renovation project was make sure that these projects weren’t just renovations. They were personalization. Whether it’s a home theater, a house, whatever it might be, when your space feels like it’s an extension of your personality, of what you’re about, that’s when it feels good.
‘Help! I Wrecked My House’ is coming back. What can we look forward to in the third season?
We just started filming, and I will say, we’re doing 10 houses this year and they are bigger than ever! We’re able to take on bigger projects, and these folks are really, truly, so in over their heads. I think these stories are going to blow people’s minds of how far some of these folks got before they realized it was time to call the professionals. It has been eye-opening.
And then I think the other thing is that we might see a little bit more of my daughter, Hazel, on the show only because she’s a little bit older now. She turns 2 tomorrow. It will be fun to have her around a little bit more, when it’s safe. I want her to be able to see what Mom does.
In yet another blow for homebuyers, mortgage interest rates are soon expected to rise even higher.
The U.S. Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it will be raising its short-term interest rate by half a percentage point in its crusade to tame inflation. This means that mortgage interest rates, which are separate from the Fed’s rates but typically follow the same trajectory, will likely rise even higher.
That’s bad news for homebuyers who have been grappling with record-high home prices and rates now topping 5%. A year ago, rates were just under 3%. They’ve since surged, averaging 5.1% in the week ending April 28, according to the most recent Freddie Mac data, with many lenders reporting rates in the mid-5% range this week.
Higher rates can tack hundreds of dollars onto a monthly mortgage payment and tens of thousands of dollars onto a 30-year fixed-rate loan. That’s forcing many buyers to put their dreams of homeownership on hold as they can’t afford the punishing combo of high rates and home prices.
“We’re running out of precedents,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “It’s a real test for the market. We haven’t seen anything like this speed of [mortgage] rate increases in a generation.”
Someone buying a home today is likely to pay about 47% more for the same property compared with a year ago, when factoring in higher prices and rates. And that’s on top of all of the extra money they’re spending due to high inflation, rising gas and energy prices, and higher rents.
“Buyers are navigating what they can afford,” says Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “They can’t afford the same price anymore.”
How high will mortgage rates go?
Mortgage broker Rocke Andrews, of Lending Arizona in Tucson, believes rates will crack 6% this year. He’s seen rates rising to the mid-5% range already forcing many of his clients to look at cheaper homes or make lower offers.
Other real estate experts believe it’s unlikely that rates will go up that high this year, but certainly not impossible.
“Five-and-a-half percent is definitely within reach, 6% is a little bit of a stretch,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®. “But mortgage rate increases have been quite a surprise so far—and maybe there are more surprises left.”
It’s worth noting that mortgage rates hit 18.6% in 1981, when the Fed was also battling inflation, according to Freddie Mac. Experts are not anticipating they will hit anything near that high.
Mortgage rates might not even spike, at least immediately. They’re currently high because the market has long expected the Fed to jack up its own rates.
“They’re on an upward trajectory,” says Freddie Mac’s Kiefer. “They’ve been on a rocket ship up the last couple of months, but the pace may be flattening a little bit.”
If inflation calms, the Fed may not raise rates as much and mortgage rates could stabilize or even dip a bit. However, if inflation continues its bruising climb, the Fed may increase its rates by larger increments, which could lead to yet higher mortgage rates.
The Fed hopes that raising its interest rates with the largest increase in more than 20 years will cool inflation. When rates are higher, it makes it more expensive to borrow money or make purchases using credit. So if fewer people are buying products, it takes some of the pressure off, allows suppliers a chance to catch up, and gives prices some room to stabilize.
“Inflation is at a 40-year high—or a lifetime high for millennials and younger generations,” says Hale. “The Fed has to react to inflation to get it under control.”
Whether mortgage rates remain in the 5% range or rise even further, the upside for buyers is there is likely to be less competition for homes, with fewer bidding wars and lower offers.
Homebuyers submitted 11.1% fewer mortgage applications in the week ending April 29, according to the most recent data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The number of home sales has also been falling.
“For a while there, you had to bid $30,000 to $40,000 over the asking price just to be considered,” says lender Andrews of Tucson-area homebuyers. Last month he started seeing those offers falling. “Now, I’ve had a few buyers whose purchase prices were the same as the asking price.”
However, home sellers will likely be slow to realize how much the housing market has shifted after watching their neighbors fetch astronomical sums for their properties. Many buyers, meanwhile, have hit their financial limits.
Nationally, median home list prices hit $405,000 in March, up 13.5% from the same time last year, according to Realtor.com data. However, the high rates are expected to slow down the pace of price growth.
“The housing market will cool down,” predicts NAR’s Yun. He expects sales will continue falling as well. “Buyers can simply not get a mortgage at these rates.”
They’re not expected to decline in most real estate markets, at least by much, because there are still so many buyers and investors who want homes. With a crushing shortage of homes for sale, there are not nearly enough to go around for those who want them.
“There are still a significant number of households who want to buy a home who didn’t want to deal with the market frenzy,” says Hale. If they jump back in the market, they “could keep prices from falling.”
Investors who aren’t reliant on mortgages could also keep prices strong. Baby boomers selling paid-off homes to downsize into homes they can buy outright and folks who built up a lot of equity in expensive parts of the country who are selling them to purchase properties in cheaper areas also might not need mortgages. And they may be able to support the high prices.
Sellers are also likely to be resistant to the idea of cutting prices after watching their neighbors’ properties sell for windfalls just a few months ago.
“Higher mortgage rates make it harder for buyers and sellers to agree on the price of a home,” says Hale. “Sellers have probably seen very high prices recently and have a high price in mind.”
What this means is that it’s becoming even more financially difficult for buyers, particularly first-time buyers without deep cash reserves, to become homeowners.
“This is a tough housing market for prospective buyers, and it’s gotten much tougher in an extreme hurry,” says Kiefer. “This is a big challenge.”
Q: I’ve lost several bidding wars for homes. Could you provide a few tips to help me win in a competitive situation?
Falling in love with a home only to lose it in a bidding war is certainly disappointing. But going through it repeatedly in today’s ultracompetitive housing market can be devastating.
I recently experienced similarly painful losses. Last year, my partner and I lost three bidding wars on homes we believed were The One before we succeeded in closing on our home in November in the New York City suburbs.
What I learned was that cash may be king, but “terms matter too,” as my real estate agent would often say.
It’s a seller’s market right now because the housing shortage has hit a crisis point. There just aren’t enough homes for the legions of folks seeking to become homeowners, relocate, trade up into larger homes, or downsize into smaller ones. That supply and demand imbalance has allowed prices to swell to epic proportions. It’s a battlefield out there for buyers with sellers calling most—if not all—of the shots.
Cash is king in today’s hot real estate market
It’s true that in most bidding wars, the highest offer will prevail. And all-cash offers might trump the largest bid as sellers don’t have to worry about a buyer securing financing. A cash sale could also close quicker than one dependent on a mortgage.
This is understandably frustrating for buyers without sizable inheritances, piles of cryptocurrency, or lottery winnings.
To reassure sellers that they can afford the home, buyers should make sure to be pre-approved for a mortgage. They should also try to put at least 20% down if they can. However, coming up with such a large down payment is no small feat with today’s record-high prices. It’s hard to save as fast as prices are rising. But in some of the nation’s hottest markets, sellers won’t seriously consider anything less than 20%—something my partner and I learned the hard way.
One thing buyers can offer right now is an escalation clause, which has become popular in some real estate markets. If the home a buyer bids on gets multiple offers, the clause states that the buyer will increase the offer price up to a specified limit. This can help buyers win the bidding war without getting in over their heads.
It’s worth noting that many sellers aren’t fans of this clause as they believe the buyers should have initially offered their maximum bid.
Terms matter when buying a home
Cash isn’t the only way to win a bidding war. There are other, more extreme tactics that buyers can try in order to sweeten their offers. Proceed carefully, readers: These strategies can be risky.
Waiving an appraisal contingency might help buyers get into the good graces of sellers. This makes bids more attractive because buyers are promising that they’ll still pay what they offered on the home—even if the abode appraises for less. If that happens, the buyers are on the hook for coming up with all of that additional cash.
But this can be a financially perilous move for buyers, even those who know the local market and have carefully studied the comps (what similar homes recently sold for in the area). If a contract has already been signed, then they often can’t back out of the deal without losing their earnest money deposit—typically anywhere from 1% to more than 10% of the price of the home. That means they could be out a substantial sum of money no matter what they do.
Sellers also love it when buyers offer to waive home inspections—this means they don’t have to worry about fixing anything before moving out. They don’t have to repair a broken stove burner or patch a few holes in the walls where pictures were hung. But it also means that buyers can’t get out if an inspector discovers more serious problems, such as a leaky roof that needs to be replaced, cracks in the foundation, or a severe termite infestation. These kinds of problems can cost thousands—if not tens of thousands—of dollars to remedy.
Forgoing an inspection can certainly help buyers to make more attractive offers on the homes of their dreams. But is this really the home of your dreams if it needs $150,000 in repairs?
My partner and I waived a traditional inspection on the home we bought last fall to make our offer stand out. But we wanted to make sure the house was in good condition if we were going to buy it. So we made our offer contingent on a structural inspection. This meant we weren’t going to nickel and dime the sellers on the little things, but we could back out of the deal if there were any big, expensive problems. So if there were issues with the electrical or plumbing systems, foundation, roof, or boiler, we could walk.
Fortunately, our inspector assured us that everything looked good. And my partner and I were able to address most of the minor issues with a screwdriver, a few swabs of spackle, and some paint.
Less risky perks homebuyers can include in their offers
Not every perk is a costly one. Buyers can offer sellers flexibility on the timing of the sale. A seller may want a buyer who can close immediately, like ours did. But other sellers might still be hunting for their own next homes and need additional time in their current property. So buyers who can offer longer closing times can make their offer stand out. Some will even purchase the home and rent it back to the sellers for a fixed period of time at a reduced cost.
Another popular way buyers attempt to win over sellers is by writing letters. They give buyers the opportunity to express why they should be chosen to buy the property. This might give them a slight advantage over a deep-pocketed investment company with a sentimental seller.
However, it’s become a controversial practice that could inadvertently lead to fair housing violations, and it has even been banned in some areas. (Ask your real estate agent whether it is permitted where you are looking.) Often buyers innocently share information about their family, sexuality, religion, or even race in these missives written to tug on the heartstrings of sellers. Denying or accepting an offer based on personal information gleaned from a letter can open the seller and the real estate agent up to a fair housing complaint. (Read more about fair housing laws here.)
I’ve heard of buyers throwing in tickets to theme parks and ritzy events, vacations, and even a year’s worth of free frozen yogurt. If you have something unique to offer, great. Creativity could help you win the bidding war. Just please don’t be creepy.
The housing market may cool off, giving buyers a little more power
This hopped-up seller’s market isn’t going to continue forever. It is likely to cool off, and home prices could even dip, due to mortgage rates exceeding 5% in April—their highest point in over a decade. When rates go up, so do monthly mortgage payments. That will have the effect of pricing many buyers out of the housing market and limit how high others can offer. Bidding wars are expected to die down.
While the seller’s market is expected to remain, due to the dearth of homes for sale, buyers will likely regain a little more leverage when there are no longer 15 buyers vying for the same fixer-upper on the edge of town. Buyers will likely still wind up paying more for a home than they did a year ago due to the higher rates. But home inspections could return and buyers might be able to laugh about the days when they included a brand-new PlayStation 5 with their offers.
So buyers, keep saving, practice some self-care if you lose out on a home, and don’t lose hope. You might soon be able to buy a home without throwing in free frozen yogurt.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook up just about everything—especially where many people live. It caused a mass real estate migration unlike any in recent memory.
Lots of folks traded the cities for suburbs—more space! fewer people!—while others relocated to new, often cheaper, parts of the country. And with the popularity of remote work that allows buyers to live just about anywhere and the growing frustration with record-high home prices, the real estate reshuffle isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
In the first quarter of the year, more than half, 59.7%, of all of the views on the home listings on Realtor.com® came from shoppers based in other metros. That was a 4.6% bump over the same time last year.
So where is everyone going?
Our economics team analyzed the search traffic on Realtor.com to figure out the areas where people wanted to move to—and where they most wanted to leave. We scrutinized the data to determine the nation’s most sought-after areas from buyers who are looking at homes in a different metro area from where they live. On the other end of the scale, the team also found the metro areas where the highest percentage of locals were looking for homes someplace else.
“The pandemic led many Americans to revisit priorities, preferences, and timelines,” says George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com. “Worries over health, financial pressures, lifestyle, and well-being were channeled into finding a home in a location which offered ample access to the outdoors, better quality of life, and increasingly important, affordable housing.”
As for trends, we found that the ever-elusive quest for affordability is still driving most preferences. Vacation and retirement destinations are especially popular with those browsing real estate listings from other areas. Some shoppers were looking to relocate, especially those who can work remotely. Others were hoping to purchase a second home, and then there were those who just wanted to dream.
Meanwhile, folks in the more expensive cities, colder parts of the country, and college and military towns seem to be looking for exit strategies. Folks in the chilly and pricey Northeast were the most likely to look at homes in other parts of the country. About 37.2% of them viewed properties in different regions. About 26.4% of folks from the Midwest, 25% of those in the West, and just 11.3% of people in the South also searched Realtor.com for residences located elsewhere.
To track the moves, the Realtor.com analysis covered the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the first quarter of 2022. (A metro area encompasses the main city and surrounding towns and smaller urban areas.) We limited the list to just one metro per state to ensure geographic diversity.
OK, let’s start with the most popular list—a tour of the most popular destinations for homebuyers right now!
1. Punta Gorda, FL Percentage of Realtor.com home listing views from outside of the metro: 90.12% Median home list price: $430,000*
2. East Stroudsburg PA Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 89.1% Median home list price: $322,000
3. Kahului, HI Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 88.3% Median home list price: $1,197,500
4. Rocky Mount, NC Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 88.3% Median home list price: $232,500
5. Prescott, AZ 87.86% Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 88.9% Median home list price: $622,300
6. Claremont, NH Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 87.5% Median home list price: $400,000
7. Hilton Head Island, SC Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 85.9% Median home list price: $522,000
8. Santa Fe, NM Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 85.9% Median home list price: $879,000
9. Decatur, AL Percentage of listing views from outside of the metro: 84.9% Median home list price: $268,000
It’s about affordability, affordability, affordability
Many homebuyers found their budgets were stymied by soaring home prices where they lived. So they’re seeking out places where they might find deals.
While real estate in Punta Gorda, FL (No. 1), isn’t exactly a steal at a median list price of $430,000, it’s still less than in some other popular cities in the Sunshine State. Take Naples, just over an hour south, which exploded in popularity during the pandemic. The $825,000 median home list price is nearly double what Punta Gorda buyers are paying.
“They’re coming from all over the country. It used to be people coming to Punta Gorda were coming from the Midwest, like Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and the Northeast,” says Punta Gorda–based real estate agent Karen Brown, of Michael Saunders & Co. “But what we have found is there are a lot of people relocating from California and Colorado. We’re seeing a lot more people moving here from the West.”
Almost all of her clients are out-of-towners, many of them baby boomers who haven’t yet retired. Some are looking for waterfront condos and townhomes, while others want updated single-family homes.
Home prices were also significantly lower in Rocky Mount, NC (No. 4), an outdoorsy location about an hour northwest of Raleigh, NC, and in Decatur, AL (No. 9), which lies alongside the Tennessee River just over an hour north of Birmingham, AL. Median list prices in the metros were $232,500 and $268,000 respectively—compared with $405,000 nationally.
Vacation areas top the list of where people want to move
The most popular destinations for out-of-towners were vacation areas. After being cooped up for nearly two years due to COVID-19, buyers apparently wanted to browse home listings in resort areas. Outdoorsy communities, where shoppers wouldn’t have to worry as much about social distancing, were particularly appealing.
In many of these pricier places, buyers of means relocated year-round because many could work from anywhere. Others purchased second or even third homes in resort communities where they could spend a few months a year in and then make some money renting them out on sites like Airbnb the rest of the time.
During the pandemic, “there was a huge move here from both metropolitan Boston and Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and the suburbs of Manhattan,” says Cape Cod real estate agent Doug Payson, of Kinlin Grover Compass.
All of those new residents have driven up prices by nearly 15% year over year in March as buyers compete over a very limited number of homes for sale.
“It’s almost a feeding frenzy when something comes on the market,” says Payson.
Retirement areas are more and more popular with homebuyers
Many home shoppers also sought out retirement meccas—including those buyers who were a few years away from bidding adieu to their daily 9-5 grinds. Many of the places they’re seeking out are the same areas that attract tourists due to their warmer winters, natural beauty, and surplus of fun things to do.
Retirement areas such Punta Gorda, FL; Prescott, AZ; Hilton Head Island, SC; and Santa Fe, NM, also popular with tourists, were also attractive places for buyers in other areas.
In Hilton Head, boomers are often buying vacation properties as sort of a test drive to determine whether they’d like to have a forever home there. They’ll often rent them out when they’re not staying in these homes, says Hilton Head real estate broker Wendy Corbitt, of Sea Pines Real Estate at the Beach Club. (She’s also seeing plenty of buyers in their 40s and 50s.)
“The list spotlights mostly Sun Belt communities, which offer good weather, desirable amenities, and a more balanced lifestyle,” notes Ratiu of Realtor.com. “With retirees seeking Florida’s sunny weather and low taxes, it is not surprising to see [the state] topping the list.”
Got it? OK, let’s take a look at the metros that people seem to be dying to leave.
1. San Jose, CA Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 86.7% Median home list price: $1,399,000*
2. Seattle, WA Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 86.1% Median home list price: $755,000
3. Washington, DC Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 82.3% Median home list price: $545,000
4. Columbus, GA Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 82.1% Median home list price: $194,000
5. Gainesville, FL Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 80.1%
Median home list price: $324,000
6. Fort Collins, CO Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 79.7% Median home list price: $635,000
7. South Bend, IN Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 79.6% Median home list price: $250,000
8. Manchester, NH Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 79.3% Median home list price: $462,000
9. Dover, DE Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 78.8% Median home list price: $415,000
10. Fargo, ND Percentage of locals looking at listings outside of their metro: 76.5% Median home list price: $360,000
Military bases and university towns are seeing a lot of turnover
People always seem to be coming and going in areas with large military populations and college towns, and that rapid turnover is continuing apace.
For example, Fort Benning, just outside of Columbus, GA (No. 4), has a population of more than 100,000 active-duty service personnel, civilian workers, and their families. Many are fairly mobile once an assignment or contract ends or they’re reassigned. Meanwhile, the Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, DE (No. 9), is the largest aerial port for the Department of Defense and is home to roughly 11,000 service personnel, civilians, and families.
Big college towns are also more transient as students graduate and then move back home or closer to their new jobs. For instance, the University of Florida, in Gainesville, FL (No. 5), had more than 61,000 students. That’s a whole lot of folks looking for housing once graduation rolls around.
Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, CO (No. 6), had nearly 29,000 students attending its main campus. South Bend, IN (No. 7), is home to one of the smaller Indiana University branches, and Notre Dame University sits just outside of its border.
High prices are pushing buyers to cheaper locations
Homebuyers in some of America’s priciest cities may have finally had enough.
Even on hefty tech salaries, the $1.4 million price tag in Silicon Valley’s San Jose, CA (No. 1), is still daunting for many home shoppers—particularly first-time buyers. A 20% down payment in the metro on that median home price is $280,000 and can go much higher.
With the proliferation of remote work for many white-collar professionals, many folks in pricier areas like San Jose, Seattle, WA (No. 2), and Washington, DC (No. 3), are relocating to cheaper parts of the country. Or if they need to go into the office only once or twice a week, they might be less likely to mind a long commute if they move farther out into less expensive exurbs or other metros.
Kevin Swartz, a Silicon Valley real estate agent at Atria Real Estate, is now working with many buyers leaving the San Jose metro, which allows many folks to save money and “be able to live closer to family or a place they prefer.”
In addition, as many places have become more expensive during the pandemic as they’ve attracted buyers from all over, locals are seeking out cheaper options. For example, the median list price in Fort Collins, CO, was up 13.1% in March from the same time a year ago, at $635,995. Prices were up about 17% in Manchester, NH (No. 8), and nearly 22% in Fargo, ND (No. 10).
So buyers in places like Manchester, which has consistently been named the nation’s hottest market, might be looking at nearby alternatives like Concord, NH, where median list prices are 7.5% lower, or even farther north where they can get more property, says Pamela Young, a Manchester-based associate real estate broker at eXp Realty.
* Median home list prices in the entire metropolitan area, including towns, suburbs, and smaller cities, in March on Realtor.com
The infamous North Carolina mansion where the wife of an author was discovered lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase has been at the center of a case that has fascinated the public for more than two decades.
The death of 48-year-old executive Kathleen Peterson and the trial of her husband, author Michael Peterson, spawned a hit documentary miniseries, “The Staircase.” The story, centered on whether Michael murdered his wife in their stunning Colonial in Durham, is the basis for a forthcoming HBO Max limited series of the same name to premiere on Thursday.
So what happened to the 10,000-square-foot home where Kathleen’s body was found on Dec. 9, 2001?
It has changed hands a few times, including once to a psychic and medium, before it sold to its most recent owner in August 2020. However, the owners have never been able to erase the stigma of Kathleen’s death from the property and sell it for what it would have fetched had the tragedy never occurred.
“A lot of times, people with infamous properties start optimistic and gradually start to home in on something more realistic,” says Bell.
The five bedroom, six-bathroom Colonial was built in 1940 for a wealthy local businessman. The residence is on a lot of 3.4 acres in the tony Forest Hills neighborhood of Durham. Amenities include a slate patio and outdoor fireplace, a library and game room, a private wing for the main bedroom, and the pool where Michael claimed to be when he claimed his wife drunkenly “fell” down the back staircase of their home.
The home was used as a set in the 1990 movie version of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” starring Robert Duvall and Faye Dunaway.
The Petersons bought the house for $600,000 in 1992. Famed scholar, author, and PBS host Henry Louis Gates Jr.claims to have sold them the property.
“The Staircase” documentary series from French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade was filmed in the residence shortly after Michael was indicted for his wife’s death. He gave the filmmaker access to his family, attorneys, and the spot where his wife’s body was found.
After Michael was sent to prison, the home was listed for $1,175,000, according to the News & Observer. The price was reduced and then sold at an even deeper discount to the co-owner of a local bakery for just $640,000 in 2004. (Tax records valued the property at $925,000, according to the Associated Press.) The new owner reportedly renovated the property.
Four years later, the home was sold for more than double that price. Psychic medium Biond Fury purchased the property for $1.3 million in 2008. Fury, who is also a self-described writer and musician, had a show that ran on a New York cable station.
He listed the property for $1.9 million in July 2020 and sold it a month later for $1.6 million, according to Realtor.com® records. Property records show the buyer was a limited liability company, which obscures the names of the new owners.
Michael Peterson, who was also an unsuccessful Durham mayoral candidate and was having financial troubles before his wife’s death, has long maintained his innocence.
His sensational trial in 2003 included testimony from a male escort Peterson had planned to pay for sex. It was also revealed that in 1985—16 years before his wife’s murder in North Carolina—Peterson had been the last person to see Elizabeth Ratliff alive. In a striking parallel to the later events, the 43-year-old widow’s bloody body was discovered twisted at the bottom of a staircase in her Germany home. Officials believed Ratliff fell after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was the mother of two young daughters whom Peterson adopted after she died.
At the culmination of the three-month trial, a jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole.
However, in 2011, he was granted a new trial due to claims of biased testimony. Just before it was slated to begin, in 2017, Peterson entered a plea to a new manslaughter charge. This allowed him to simultaneously maintain his innocence while acknowledging the body of evidence against him was likely strong enough for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. He was released from prison, sentenced to time already served.
In 2019, Peterson’s former defense attorney David Rudolfsaid Peterson was living in a ground-floor apartment in Durham—with no stairs.
Watch: The One Where the ‘Friends’-Themed Home Goes Up for Sale in Texas
Mortgage rates are at their highest level in more than a decade. Home buyers are fighting back.
More borrowers are paying fees to cut their interest rates and making higher down payments to lower the amount they have to finance, lenders and real-estate agents say. People buying homes under construction are choosing to lock in today’s rates rather than risk even higher ones later.
And more home buyers are considering home loans that carry lower rates in their early years. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages have doubled over the past three months, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
For much of 2020 and 2021, ultralow mortgage rates helped Americans offset a sharp increase in home prices. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell below 3% for the first time in July 2020 before bottoming out at 2.65% in early 2021.
Everything changed this year. The Federal Reserve’s pullback from the mortgage-bond market has helped drive up rates on home loans close to 2 percentage points since early January, their steepest climb in decades. And they are likely to climb even more if the Fed continues to raise its benchmark rate throughout the year, as expected.
Prospective buyers who had been quoted rates well below 4% when starting their search now face rates closer to 6% than 5%. They are scrambling to adjust.
“It’s kind of like giving a toddler some sugar for a while and then taking it away,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Kukun, a real-estate data firm. “They want to know whether it’s going to be taken away forever and whether they can live off things that aren’t sugar.”
More home buyers are opting to pay fees to secure lower rates in the form of rate-lock agreements and discount points. A borrower can buy points at a rate of 1% of the value of the mortgage; each point lowers the rate by a fraction of a percentage point.
Borrowers in April paid an average of $3,134 in discount points and loan-origination costs, according to estimates from the National Association of Realtors. That is 31% higher than a year earlier.
Paul Egbele was quoted a rate near 2.5% last year when he hit the market. But completion of the Red Oak, Texas, home he expected to close on last fall was delayed until May.
He locked in a rate of 3.5% in February, just before rates began their sharp rise. After the 60-day lock expired in April, he paid his lender, JPMorgan Chase & Co., about $1,700 to extend it until early May.
Mr. Egbele, who operates an online shoe-selling business, also opted to pay about $4,600 for discount points to reduce his rate to 3.25%.
His monthly mortgage payments are about $500 lower than they would have been if he had been saddled with today’s average rate above 5%.
“I would still be able to afford the payments, but I would have been annoyed,” Mr. Egbele said.
At mortgage lender Neat Loans, about 75% of customers chose to pay for discount points in the first quarter, up from less than 20% a year ago.
“They’re kind of taking their medicine and making a one-time payment to get back to where things were 30 days ago,” said Tom Furey, co-founder of the Boulder, Colo.-based company.
Jared Hansen, a real-estate agent in Salt Lake County, Utah, said higher rates have pushed about 15 prospective clients off the market this year. Some of those who can still afford to buy are looking at mortgages with lower introductory rates that reset in five, seven or 10 years.
Average rates on adjustable mortgages last week ranged from 3.69% to 5.03%, depending on the loan terms, according to Bankrate.com. The website’s average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 5.22% over the same period.
Today’s ARMs are different from the ones that became hugely popular before the 2008 financial crisis. Then, ARMs attracted borrowers with reduced interest rates that skyrocketed after a year or two, saddling homeowners with payments they struggled to afford. At their peak in 2005, adjustable-rate loans accounted for close to 50% of all mortgages issued, according to the Urban Institute.