Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

Gone In 60 Days: Where Homes Are Moving Fastest This Spring

Buyers need to move a bit faster this year in order to snag their dream house, even in some of the slowest-moving markets. Homes are going especially quick in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.

Housing inventory remains tight, and one of the questions on the minds of many homebuyers this Spring is just how fast they will have to move to get the home they want and can afford.

To find out how long homes are staying on the market, we calculated the share of homes for sale on Trulia over a two-month period. We first looked at homes listed on February 5, then counted how many were still for sale on April 5. Faster-moving markets had a lower percentage of homes still on the market after two months, while slower-moving markets had a higher percentage.

Trulia_FastestMovingMarkets_Infographic_Apr2015Our two-month measure is similar to a common housing statistic: days on market (DOM). In general, housing markets with more inventory and fewer buyers will have a higher share of for-sale homes remaining on the market after two months and a higher median DOM. But we prefer our two-month measure over the widely watched DOM as a way to determine how quickly homes are moving in a market. Why? We think DOM is potentially misleading. If lots of new inventory suddenly lands on the market, then the median DOM could fall thanks to all those newly listed homes. Thus, a low median DOM might indicate that buyers are snapping up homes quickly, so homes aren’t staying on the market long (a seller’s market). But it could also signal that a lot of new inventory has just come onto the market (a buyer’s market). As a result, it’s difficult to decipher what’s really going on based on DOM alone.

Looking for a Bargain Home? So Is Everyone Else.
Nationally, 60% of homes listed for sale on February 5 were still on the market on April 5, down a bit from 62% for the same period last year. What’s quickening the pace of sales? It turns out it’s homes priced at the low end of the market. To see this, we evenly divided all homes in each of the 100 largest U.S. metros into three price tiers. We gave each metro its own price cutoffs based on what’s considered high-end, mid-range, and low-end locally. On average, lower-priced homes moved fastest. Only 50% of homes in this tier were still on the market after two months compared with 65% of higher-priced homes.

What’s more, home sales in the low-price tier sped up more compared with a year ago than sales in other tiers. The share of low-price homes still on the market after two months dropped 3 percentage points, compared with a 1 point drop for middle-tier homes and a 1 point increase for high-tier homes. As always though, the national trend hides big differences from one local market to another. In many metros, the sales pace is quickening, while in others it is slowing.

Trulia_FastestMovingMarkets_BarChart_Apr2015

California: Home to America’s Fastest-Moving Housing Markets
If you’re a home seller, California may indeed be the Golden State. Eight of the 10 fastest-moving housing markets are there, and homes are selling much faster than in the Northeast, South, and Midwest. In fact, fewer than 30% of homes for sale in the three San Francisco Bay Area metros remained on the market after two months. By contrast, about 70% of homes in Long Island and Albany, NY were still on the market. In addition, the only metros outside California that made the 10 fastest moving list were Seattle and Salt Lake City.

America’s Top 10 Fastest-Moving Housing Markets

# U.S. Metro % of homes still for sale after two months, April 2015 % of homes still for sale after two months, April 2014 Difference in share still for sale, 2015 vs 2014 Median Asking Home prices, April 2015
1 San Francisco, CA 26% 28% -3% $1,099,000
2 San Jose, CA 30% 31% -1% $800,000
3 Oakland, CA 30% 31% -1% $598,000
4 San Diego, CA 33% 44% -11% $549,990
5 Orange County, CA 41% 45% -3% $699,000
6 Seattle, WA 42% 45% -3% $409,993
7 Sacramento, CA 42% 45% -3% $396,950
8 Los Angeles, CA 43% 45% -3% $549,000
9 Ventura County, CA 43% 50% -6% $589,999
10 Salt Lake City, UT 45% 28% -6% $299,900
Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares. Click here to download the full results for each of the 100 largest U.S. metros. 

None of the fastest-moving markets have slowed since last year. In fact, the markets on our top 10 list that sped up the most are San Diego, Ventura County, and Salt Lake City. Other markets that are speeding up most rapidly are almost exclusively in the South and Southwest. The share of homes for sale in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL still on the market two months later dropped from 64% in April 2014 to 47% in April 2015. El Paso, TX and Richmond, VA also sped up at a similar pace, even though homes in those markets aren’t moving quickly enough to land them on the 10 fastest-moving markets list.

To illustrate this point, the figure below shows that homes in markets with bigger price increases tend to move faster, though not always. For the most part, these fast-moving metros are sellers’ markets where homes don’t sit very long.

Trulia_FastestMovingMarkets_Scatterplot_Apr2015

Housing Markets Moving Sluggishly in Long Island and Albany, NY
In contrast, the slowest-moving markets are in the Northeast, including Long Island and Albany, and in the South, including Columbia, SC, and Knoxville. All but two of the 10 slowest-moving markets had year-over-year price increases below the 5% national average. However, even among these snail’s-pace markets, the share of homes still for sale after two months dropped in five of 10 metros. Knoxville and Long Island both all sped up 2 percentage points this year compared with last. It’s true that in six of the metros on this list, the pace of sales slowed in 2015 compared with the year before. The pace of sales slowed the most in Miami (9 points) and Pittsburgh (4 points)

America’s Top 10 Slowest-Moving Housing Markets

# U.S. Metro % of homes still for sale after two months, April 2015 % of homes still for sale after two months, April 2014 Difference in share still for sale, 2015 vs 2014 Median Asking Home prices, April 2015
1 Albany, NY 71% 70% 1% $264,900
2 Long Island, NY 69% 71% -2% $474,995
3 Syracuse, NY 68% 67% 1% $153,000
4 Columbia, SC 67% 69% -1% $170,000
5 Knoxville, TN 67% 69% -2% $184,900
6 Pittsburgh, PA 67% 62% 4% $155,000
7 Lake County –Kenosha County, IL-WI 67% 64% 3% $289,000
8 Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA 65% 65% 0% $249,000
9 Birmingham, AL 65% 66% -1% $193,000
10 Miami, FL 65% 56% 9% $319,000
Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares. Click here to download the full results for each of the 100 largest U.S. metros. 

Why do some markets speed up while others slow down? Last year we found the fastest moving markets were those that had the largest year-over-year price gains. Things don’t appear to have changed this year. In fact, asking prices increased near or above the national average of 5% year-over-year in six of the 10 fastest-moving markets.

But fast-moving markets are different in other ways, too. They tend to be more expensive to begin with. In other words, they have both higher price levels AND they’ve notched bigger price increases in the past year. Expensive markets—including many in California—have tight housing supplies because of limited construction in the face of growing demand. So homes get snapped up quickly. And this is bad news for first-time homebuyers. The combination of an expensive market and fast-selling homes at the low tier is yet another hurdle for first-timers, who are already getting slammed by declining affordability and slow wage growth. Now, even the homes they might be able to afford seem to be disappearing in the blink of an eye.

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Why House Hunters Should Skip Sunday Brunch

Open houses overwhelmingly take place on Sundays and start most frequently at 1 p.m., but this isn’t always the case. Some open houses do happen between Mondays and Fridays, especially in the West. Likewise, Sunday open houses are much more likely to begin after 2 p.m. in some Southern housing markets, perhaps due to religion and local culture.

Open-House-Inforgraphic-large

The home-buying season is upon us. With that comes millions of open houses across the country, where sellers show off their properties and would-be homebuyers take stock. So whether you’re a buyer, a seller, or just a nosey neighbor, here’s the story on when for-sale homes are likely to be open to the public. We’ve uncovered these insights by analyzing all listings on Trulia with scheduled open houses in 2014.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: The go-to day for open houses
If you’re planning on holding an open house, actively home shopping, or just want to stroll the neighborhood and poke your head in—no surprise—weekends are far and away the most common time for showing homes. But the breakdown is not even between the two weekend days. Open houses are over 2.5X more likely to take place on Sundays than on Saturdays, 67% versus 24%. So if you’re hunting for a home this weekend, looking on Sunday may give you the most choices.

OpenHouse_DayofWeek_Graph

Where You Can Hit Up Open Houses on Weekdays
But what if you can’t make weekend open houses? If you live in the West, you have a much better opportunity to attend an open house during the week. Over 11% of open houses in the West are held on weekdays. If you live in the Midwest, you’re out of luck. Only 5% of homes in the Midwest are held Monday through Friday. Weekday open houses in the Northeast and South make up about 8% and 9% of all open houses, respectively. The most common weekday for open houses is Friday except for the Northeast, where Thursday reigns.

OpenHouse_Weekday_Graph

Most Popular Time to Kick Off an Open House: Noon to 2 p.m.
While “location, location, location” is the mantra for real estate value, “time of day, time of day, time of day” may be the slogan for open houses. Among Saturday and Sunday open houses in 2014, 1 p.m. was the most common starting time, with a whopping 85% beginning at either noon, 1 p.m., or 2 p.m. But not all metros are alike. In the South and the Midwest, 95-99% of all 2014 open houses began between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., a bigger percentage than in other regions. The West and Florida had the smallest percentages. But, even in those regions, between 45% and 68% of open houses began during the two-hour noon-to-2 p.m. window.

OpenHouse_Time_Graph

Where Most Open Houses starting at 12pm, 1pm, or 2pm
U.S. Metro % Open Houses
Wichita, KS 99%
Little Rock, AR 98%
Knoxville, TN 97%
Newark, NJ-PA 97%
Oklahoma City, OK 96%
Louisville, KY-IN 96%
Columbus, OH 96%
Birmingham, AL 95%
Tulsa, OK 95%
Wilmington, DE 95%
Note: among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

 

Where Fewer Open Houses starting at 12pm, 1pm, or 2pm
U.S. Metro % Open Houses
Fort Lauderdale, FL 45%
Las Vegas, NV 53%
Salt Lake City, UT 55%
Phoenix, AZ 56%
Winston-Salem, NC 60%
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 61%
El Paso, TX 62%
Greensboro-High Point, NC 65%
Miami, FL 67%
Worcester, MA 68%
Note: among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Where the “Church Effect” on Open Houses Is Very Real
A full 70.7% of Sunday open houses took place in the afternoon in 2014 compared with a bare majority of 51% of Saturday open houses. The greatest discrepancy was at 2p.m. Open houses held on Sundays were more than twice as likely to start at that hour as Saturday open houses.

OpenHouse_SatvsSun_Graph

This got us thinking: Are Sunday mornings and early afternoons reserved for churchgoing? At first glance, the answer was no. When it came to open house timing, we found that metros with the largest percentage of Christians were no different than other metros.

But things looked different when we examined the data more deeply. It turns out that Sunday open house scheduling did vary by metro in 2014 depending on which Christian denominations were most heavily represented. Those metros with the biggest concentrations of evangelical Christians were much more likely to have Sunday open houses that began after 2 p.m.  Why? It’s possible that evangelicals have longer church services, more active churchgoing members, or both. In metros with the largest proportion of evangelicals, sellers might hold Sunday open houses later in the day to avoid conflicting with church services.

OpenHouse_ChurchEffect_Graph

But was this also a regional rather than just a religious effect? Metros with the largest percentages of evangelical Christians are largely in the South, a part of the country where midday Sunday dinners and family get-togethers might be more common. Indeed, we did find that Southern metros overall were more likely to have open houses that started at 2 p.m. or later, especially on Sunday.  But the evidence of a religious effect was strong. Among Southern metros, those with large evangelical concentrations were nearly three times as likely to hold open houses in the afternoon on Sunday as on Saturday.

Open-House-Inforgraphic-Bible-Belt-Blog

The lesson here is that open house timing depends significantly on local culture. How people spend their time on weekends reflects faith, tradition, and custom. And those are things to which the real estate industry adapts.

Note: Our open house data consists of the date and start times of all scheduled open houses reported to Trulia in 2014. However, those data do not include ending times of open houses.

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Dreaming Big: Americans Still Yearning for Larger Homes

43% of adults would prefer homes bigger than where they currently live, but attitudes differ by age. Baby boomers would prefer to upsize rather than downsize by only a small margin, while the gap among millennials is much wider, with GenXers falling in between. Would-be downsizers outnumber upsizers only among households living in the largest homes.

Last year, we found that Baby Boomers were especially unlikely to live in multi-unit housing. At the same time, we noted that the share of seniors living in multi-unit housing rather than single-family homes has been shrinking for decades. These findings got us thinking about how the generations vary in house-size preference. So we surveyed over 2000 people at the end of last year to figure out if boomers have different house-size preferences than their younger counterparts. And that led us to ask: What size homes do Americans really want?

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Most Americans are not living in the size home they want

As a whole, Americans are living in a world of mismatch – only 40% of our respondents said they are living in the size home that’s ideal. Furthermore, over 43% answered that the size of their ideal residence is somewhat or much larger than their current digs. Only 16% told us that their ideal residence is smaller than their existing home. However, these overall figures mask what is going on within different generations.

It’s natural to think that baby boomers are the generation most likely to downsize.  After all, their nests are emptying and they may move when they retire.  As it turns out though, more boomers would prefer to live in a larger home than a smaller one: 21% said their ideal residence is smaller than their current home, while 26% wanted a larger home – a 5-percentage-point difference. Clearly, boomers don’t feel a massive yearn to downsize. On the contrary, just over half (53%) said they’re already living in their ideally sized home. Nonetheless, members of this generation are more likely to want to downsize than millennials and GenXers.

In fact, those younger generations want some elbow room. First, the millennials. They’re looking to move on up by a big margin: just over 60% told us their ideal residence is larger than where they live now – the largest proportion among the generations in our sample. By contrast, only a little over 13% of millennials said they’d rather have a smaller home than their existing one – which is also the smallest among the generations in our sample. The results are clear: millennials are much more likely to want to upsize than downsize.

The next generation up the ladder, the GenXers, are hitting their peak earning years and many in this group may be in a position to trade up. Many aren’t living in their ideally sized home. Just 38% said where they live now is dream sized. Nearly a majority (48%) said their dream home is larger, while only 14% of GenXers would rather have a smaller home.  This is the generation that bore the brunt of the foreclosure crisis. So, some of this mismatch could be because a significant number of GenXers lost homes during the housing bust and may now be living in smaller-than-desired quarters. But a much more probable reason is that many GenXers are in their peak child-rearing years. With kids bouncing off the walls, the place may be feeling a tad crowded.

Even the groups that seem ripe for downsizing don’t want smaller homes

Of course, age doesn’t tell the whole story about why people might want to downsize. It could be that certain kinds of households, – such as those without children, and living in the suburbs or in affordable areas – might be more likely to live in larger homes than they need. But our survey shows that households in these categories are about twice as likely to want a larger than a smaller home. For those with kids especially, the desire to upsize is strong: 39% preferred a larger home versus 18% who liked a smaller home.  For those living in the suburbs, the disparity is even greater – 42% to 16%. And even among those living in the most affordable zip codes, where ideally-sized homes might be within the budgets of households, 40% of our respondents preferred larger homes versus 20% who said smaller.

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Are all households more likely to upsize than downsize?

At this point you might be asking, “Are there any types of households that want to downsize?” The answer is yes. But only one kind of household falls into this category – those living in homes larger than 3,200 square feet.  Of this group, 26% wanted to downsize versus 25% that wanted to upsize – a slight difference. But, when we looked overall at survey responses based on the size of current residence, households wanting a larger home kicked up as current home size went down. We can see this clearly when we divide households into six groups based on the size of the home they’re living in now. Among households living in 2,600-3,200 square foot homes, 37% prefer a larger home versus 16% a smaller home; in 2,000–2,600 square foot homes, its 34% to 18%; 38% to 18% in 1,400–2,000 square foot homes; 55% to 13% in 800–1,400 square foot homes; and 66% to 13% in homes less than 800 square feet. This makes intuitive sense.  Those living in the biggest homes are most likely to have gotten a home larger than their ideal size. And those in the smallest homes are probably the ones feeling most squeezed.

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The responses to our survey show significantly more demand for larger homes than for smaller ones. But the reality, of course, is that households must make tradeoffs between things like accessibility, amenities, and affordability when choosing what size homes to get. The “ideal” sized home for most Americans may be larger than where they’re living now. But that spacious dream home may not practical.  As result, the mismatch between what Americans say they want and what best suits their circumstances may persist.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States between November 6-10, 2014 among 2,008 adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Poll on behalf of Trulia via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words “margin of error” are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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For Home Prices, The Rebound Effect Is Over. Long Live Job Growth

Local home prices are no longer rising because of the rebound effect. Markets that had a more severe housing bust aren’t where home prices are climbing fastest anymore. The markets with the fastest employment growth now have the largest price increases.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
February 10, 2015

The Trulia Price Monitor and the Trulia Rent Monitor are the earliest leading indicators of housing price and rent trends nationally and locally. They adjust for the changing mix of listed homes and show what’s really happening to asking prices and rents. Asking prices lead sales prices by approximately two or more months. As a result, the Monitors reveal trends before other price indexes do. Here then is the scoop on where prices and rents are headed.

Asking Prices Rose a Modest 0.5% Month-Over-Month in January

Nationwide, asking prices on for-sale homes climbed 0.5% month-over-month in January, seasonally adjusted — the smallest monthly gain since August. Year-over-year, asking prices rose 7.5%, down from the 9.3% year-over-year increase in January 2014. Asking prices increased year-over-year in 94 of the 100 largest U.S. metros.

January 2015 Trulia Price Monitor Summary

% change in asking prices # of 100 largest metros with asking-price increases % change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures
Month-over-month,
seasonally adjusted
0.5% N/A 0.7%
Quarter-over-quarter,
seasonally adjusted
2.9% 82 3.4%
Year-over-year 7.5% 94 8.0%
Data from previous months are revised each month, so current data reported for previous months might differ from previously reported data.

The Rebound Effect is Over—Job Growth Drives Price Gains

The biggest home price increases are not necessarily in markets that had more severe housing busts. But the metros where home prices are now rising fastest are, almost without exception, the ones with faster job growth. Why? A growing economy fuels housing demand. Among the 10 metros with the biggest year-over-year price increases, nine had at least 2% year-over-year job growth. Only Detroit made the price growth top 10 despite tepid job gains. Plus, among these 10 metros with fastest price growth, four – Houston, Indianapolis, Denver, and Austin – had notably mild housing busts, with price declines from the peak of the bubble to the trough of the recession of less than 10%. Their price gains today don’t reflect a rebound after a sharp fall.

Where Asking Prices Increased Most in January

# U.S. Metro Y-o-Y % asking price change, Jan 2015 Y-o-Y % job growth Peak-to-trough price decline in housing bust
1 Atlanta, GA 16.2% 3.3% -26%
2 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 15.4% 6.3% -56%
3 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 13.9% 2.3% -50%
4 Oakland, CA 13.8% 2.7% -39%
5 Houston, TX 13.8% 3.2% -4%
6 Indianapolis, IN 13.1% 2.0% -7%
7 Denver, CO 13.0% 3.7% -8%
8 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 12.9% 4.3% -51%
9 Austin, TX 12.7% 4.0% -4%
10 Detroit, MI 12.6% 0.3% -40%
Note: among 100 largest metros. Job growth is as of 2014 Q2, from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages; peak-to-trough price decline is from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. To download the list of asking home price changes for the largest metros: Excel or PDF.

On the flip side, nearly all 10 markets with the slowest price gains (including six with declines) have had relatively sluggish job growth. Only Columbia, SC, had strong job growth but weak home price gains.

Where Asking Prices Decreased Most Or Increased Least in January

# U.S. Metro Y-o-Y % asking price change, Jan 2015 Y-o-Y % change in employment Peak-to-trough price decline in housing bust
1 Little Rock, AR -3.4% -0.1% -4%
2 Akron, OH -3.3% 1.6% -16%
3 Baltimore, MD -1.5% 0.6% -22%
4 Cleveland, OH -1.0% 0.3% -19%
5 Albany, NY -0.3% 0.6% -6%
6 Columbia, SC 0.0% 3.7% -12%
7 Winston-Salem, NC 0.6% 1.6% -10%
8 Allentown, PA 0.9% 1.3% -21%
9 Newark, NJ 0.9% 0.3% -19%
10 El Paso, TX 1.2% 1.4% -8%
Note: among 100 largest metros. Job growth is as of 2014 Q2, from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages; peak-to-trough price decline is from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. To download the list of asking home price changes for the largest metros: Excel or PDF.

Across all 100 largest metros, the relationship between job growth and home prices is strong. The correlation is 0.56 and statistically significant.

PricesAndGrowth-01

This isn’t new. Throughout the recovery, home prices have risen faster in markets with stronger job growth. What is notable is that the link between job growth and home prices is strengthening, as shown by the increasing statistical correlation between job growth and home prices (see chart below). But what’s really new is that the rebound effect has melted away. The correlation between the peak-to-trough price decline during the housing bubble and price changes in the recovery peaked in mid-2013 and has plunged since then. Now, the correlation between the peak-to-trough decline and the January 2015 year-over-year change is just 0.18, which isn’t statistically significant. (Nor is there a statistically significant relationship between the peak-to-trough declines and recent price gains after taking job growth into account.)

This is big news. For much of the recovery, the rebound effect was more closely tied to local price gains than job growth was. But today, things have reversed: Job growth is now much more important than the rebound effect. As home prices have increased and gotten close to long-term normal levels, and as investors and foreclosure sales have become a smaller part of housing activity, fundamental drivers of housing demand — like job growth—have taken over again.

Correlations-01

Rents, Too, Are Rising Most Where the Job Growth Is

Nationwide, rents rose 6.5% year-over-year in January. The three large rental markets with the steepest rent increases – Denver, Oakland, and San Francisco – all have had job growth of 2% or more. In general, metros with faster job growth have larger rent increases, though some Sunbelt markets like Riverside-San Bernardino, Houston, and San Diego have had impressive job growth with more limited rent increases.

Rent Trends in the 25 Largest Rental Markets

# U.S. Metro Y-o-Y % change in rents, Jan 2015 Y-o-Y % change in employment
1 Denver, CO 14.2% 3.7%
2 Oakland, CA 12.1% 2.7%
3 San Francisco, CA 11.6% 4.5%
4 St. Louis, MO 10.1% 1.4%
5 Phoenix, AZ 10.0% 2.1%
6 Portland, OR 9.0% 2.9%
7 New York, NY 8.9% 2.3%
8 Baltimore, MD 8.3% 0.6%
9 Philadelphia, PA 8.3% 1.1%
10 Los Angeles, CA 7.5% 2.3%
11 Miami, FL 7.4% 2.5%
12 Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL 7.3% 2.4%
13 Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA 7.2% 1.5%
14 Orange County, CA 7.1% 2.0%
15 Chicago, IL 7.0% 1.9%
16 Newark, NJ 6.7% 0.3%
17 Atlanta, GA 6.6% 3.3%
18 Seattle, WA 6.4% 3.1%
19 Dallas, TX 6.2% 3.8%
20 Boston, MA 5.5% 1.7%
21 Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 4.5% 4.3%
22 Washington, DC 3.4% 0.3%
23 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN 3.3% 1.7%
24 Houston, TX 3.2% 3.2%
25 San Diego, CA 3.2% 2.3%
Note: Job growth is as of 2014 Q2, from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages

The next Price and Rent Monitors are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, March 10.

Notes:

The Trulia Price Monitor and the Trulia Rent Monitor track asking home prices and rents on a monthly basis, adjusting for the changing composition of listed homes, including foreclosures provided by RealtyTrac. The Trulia Price Monitor also accounts for regular seasonal fluctuations in asking prices in order to reveal underlying price trends. The Monitors can detect price movements at least three months before the major sales-price indexes. Historical data are revised monthly. Thus, historical data presented in the current release are the best comparison with current data. Our FAQs provide the technical details.

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Where the Spring Housing Season Starts Early

In January and February, the housing market is in full bloom in Florida and Arizona. But upstate New York, New England, and some Pacific markets blossom later.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
February 5, 2015

Nationally, the spring housing seasons kicks off in March and stays strong into August before going into its winter lull. But the seasonality of the market – like everything else about housing – is local.

Using data on properties viewed on Trulia’s website from mid-2011 to mid-2014, we determined the seasonal pattern for home searches in each local market (see note). For the U.S. overall, January and February search activity is 2% above the annual average, rising to 10-15% above the annual average in the peak months from March­ to July. It then falls far below the annual average in November and December. However, each local market has its own seasonal rhythm.

Winter Sun Brings Out the Home Seekers

The housing season starts earliest on Florida’s west coast. In January and February, home search activity is 22% above the local annual average in Cape Coral-Fort Myers and 17% above in North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton. Three other Florida metros and the Arizona metros of Phoenix and Tucson are also in the top ten. All but Kansas City are in the Sunbelt.

Top 10 Metros Where Winter Home Searches are Above Annual Average

# Metro Jan/Feb home search activity relative to local annual average
1 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL +22%
2 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL +17%
3 Tucson, AZ +11%
4 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL +10%
5 West Palm Beach, FL +10%
6 El Paso, TX +9%
7 Fort Lauderdale, FL +8%
8 Phoenix, AZ +8%
9 Kansas City, MO +7%
10 Charleston, SC +7%
Note: Among the 100 largest metros.

In several smaller metros as well, January/February search activity is 15% or more above the local annual average. All are in Florida, including Punta Gorda, Naples, Ocala, and Port St. Lucie. In the Sunshine State, the early-bird special isn’t just for dinner – it’s also for housing.

The metros where winter home searches are slowest relative to the annual average are in upstate New York (Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester), New England (Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Hartford), and the cooler, wetter winter markets on the Pacific (Seattle, San Francisco).  Honolulu and Houston are on the list of metros that wake up later, too. But the dips are just in the mid-to-low single digits. No markets are as far below the annual average for home search activity in January and February as the west coast of Florida is ahead.

Top 10 Metros Where Winter Home Searches are Below Annual Average

#

Metro

Jan/Feb home search activity relative to local annual average
1 Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA -5%
2 Seattle, WA -5%
3 Long Island, NY -4%
4 Honolulu, HI -4%
5 San Francisco, CA -3%
6 Syracuse, NY -3%
7 Houston, TX -3%
8 Buffalo, NY -3%
9 Rochester, NY -3%
10 Hartford, CT -3%
Note: Among the 100 largest metros.

Weather is the most important reason why the housing season starts earlier in some markets. Metros with strong search activity early in the year tend to have warm, dry winters (in much of Florida, for instance, the rainy season is June through September). And most, though not all, of the markets that sleep in a little later into the year have winters that are cold, wet, or both.

But weather isn’t the only factor. Another is that the markets that start early have had more foreclosures in recent years. Foreclosures are often bought by investors, and their housing demand is less seasonal. Investors tend not to hibernate as much as conventional buyers do in the winter months.

Home Seekers in Pricier Markets Take Their Time

The early-bird markets tend to have one other thing in common—greater affordability. The median price per square foot is lower on average in markets where the housing season starts early, after adjusting for differences in climate and foreclosure inventory. Not only do lower-cost metros have an early start to the housing season, but, even within metros, search activity picks up more at the start of the year in more affordable neighborhoods than in more expensive neighborhoods. Higher-priced neighborhoods tend to have slightly shorter house-hunting seasons, concentrated more in March through June.

Homeowners looking to sell in lower-priced neighborhoods and early-bird markets will see interest even this early in the year. But sellers in higher-cost areas are likely to have a slightly narrower window to catch peak buyer traffic.

Note: Search activity is based on properties viewed on Trulia.com from July 2011 to June 2014. Data from the full years of 2011—2014 were used to adjust for the upward trend in the data in order to reveal seasonal fluctuations. The housing crisis affected the seasonal pattern of home prices and other housing activities, so the search patterns observed in the recent past could change in the future.

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