Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Cities vs. Suburbs

Millennials Are Suburbanizing, While Big Cities Are Having a Baby Boom

Between 2012 and 2013, population growth for 20-34 year-olds was highest in Colorado Springs and San Antonio, while Austin and Raleigh were tops for 50-69 year-olds. But New York, Washington D.C., and Boston all had among the highest growth for 0-4 year-olds.

This morning the Census released its 2013 population estimates by age group for counties, which reveals which local areas are gaining or losing millennials, boomers, and other age groups. Earlier this year, the Census released 2013 population estimates for the overall population – not broken out by age group: at that time we pointed out that the most urban counties had slower population growth than the more suburban counties, even though the most urban counties were growing faster than they did during the housing bubble. (This post and this article explored the broad urban versus suburban trends.)

Today’s new data tell us whether key demographic groups – like millennials (20-34 year olds), boomers (50-69 year olds), and young kids (0-4 year-olds) – might be bucking the broader trend of more suburban counties growing faster than the most urban counties. To measure this, we use the same approach of dividing all U.S. counties into four quartiles based on their household density so that each quartile includes around one-fourth of the total population (see note on county definitions and age groups). Going from the highest to lowest density, the four categories correspond roughly to (1) big, dense cities; (2) big-city suburbs and lower-density cities; (3) lower-density suburbs and small cities; and (4) smaller towns and rural areas.

The punchline: millennial population growth in 2012-2013 in big, dense cities was outpaced by big-city suburbs and lower-density cities and even by lower-density suburbs and smaller cities. Boomer growth in big, dense cities also fell just short of growth in the big-city suburbs and lower-density cities. But the population of kids under the age of 5 grew fastest in big, dense cities. Let’s take a look at each of the age groups.

Millennials Not Flocking to Big Cities
From 2012 to 2013, population growth for millennials (20-34 year-olds) was highest outside big cities. The fastest growth was in the second quartile of counties ranked by density (big-city suburbs and lower-density cities). Furthermore, the third quartile (lower-density suburbs and smaller cities) edged out the top quartile (big, dense cities) for millennial population growth:


… continue reading

1 comment

Home Prices and Population Growth: Cities vs. Suburbs

From some angles, it looks like the housing recovery has brought an urban resurgence: for instance, the most urban counties are growing faster now than during the housing bubble, and many dense cities are having a boom in apartment construction. However, the most recent data show that asking prices in urban neighborhoods are rising only slightly faster than in the suburbs, and the suburbs actually have higher population growth.

 The Trulia Price Monitor and the Trulia Rent Monitor are the earliest leading indicators of how asking prices and rents are trending nationally and locally. They adjust for the changing mix of listed homes and therefore show what’s really happening to asking prices and rents. Because asking prices lead sales prices by approximately two or more months, the Monitors reveal trends before other price indexes do. With that, here’s the scoop on where prices and rents are headed (see note #1 below).

Asking Prices Continue to Rise as Spring House Hunting Season Begins
Despite declining investor purchases and more inventory coming onto the market, asking home prices continued to rise at the start of the spring housing season. Month-over-month, asking prices rose 1.2% nationally in March 2014, seasonally adjusted. Quarter-over-quarter, asking prices rose 2.9% in March 2014, seasonally adjusted, reflecting three straight months of solid month-over-month gains.

Year-over-year, asking prices are up 10% nationally and up in 97 of the 100 largest metros. Albany, NY, Hartford, CT, and New Haven, CT, are the only three large metros where prices fell year-over-year, albeit slightly.


March 2014 Trulia Price Monitor Summary


% change in asking prices

# of 100 largest metros with asking-price increases

% change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures

seasonally adjusted


Not reported


seasonally adjusted








*Data from previous months are revised each month, so data being reported now for previous months might differ from previously reported data.

… continue reading


Home Prices Rising Faster in Cities than in the Suburbs – Most of All in Gayborhoods

The suburbs may have faster population growth, but urban neighborhoods have faster home-price growth nationally and in 16 of the 20 Case-Shiller metros. Furthermore, home prices are climbing most steeply in high-rise neighborhoods and areas with large gay and lesbian populations.

Home prices have been climbing nationally for more than a year. The Trulia Price Monitor, Case-Shiller, and other price indexes show price gains for nearly all large metro areas. But within a metro, the city and the suburbs are often totally different housing markets.  In last decade’s housing bubble and bust, most of the overbuilding and foreclosures happened in the suburbs and outlying areas, but many downtowns are dotted with vacant buildings or even vacant blocks. Which areas are seeing a stronger recovery – cities or suburbs?

To answer this, we looked at (1) price gains, based on the change in median price per square foot among all non-foreclosure homes for sale on Trulia, and (2) population growth, based on the U.S. Postal Service’s count of occupied households in each ZIP code. Both measures are year-over-year, with prices through the end of May 2013 and population through mid-June 2013. We classify urban and suburban neighborhoods based on the kind of housing they have – urban neighborhoods are mostly condos, apartments, and townhouses, while suburbs have mostly detached, single-family homes – which we think is more accurate than using big-city boundaries (see note).

Urban Neighborhoods Have Stronger Price Recovery, but Slower Population Growth
Here’s the punch line: urban neighborhoods had faster price growth in the past year, while suburban neighborhoods had higher population growth. The median asking price per square foot was up 11.3% in urban neighborhoods, versus 10.2% in suburban neighborhoods.  (The overall national increase, including urban and suburban neighborhoods, was 10.5%.) But despite faster price growth in cities, the suburbs are where people are moving: suburban neighborhoods had faster population growth than urban neighborhoods did, 0.56% versus 0.31%.

Change in home prices, Y-o-Y Change in population, Y-o-Y
Urban neighborhoods



Suburban neighborhoods



But shouldn’t price gains and population growth go hand-in-hand? Not necessarily: there’s more room to build new housing for a growing population in sprawling suburbs than in dense urban areas, so suburbs can more easily accommodate growth with new construction. In contrast, the more people want to live in dense, urban neighborhoods, the more they bid up the price of existing homes. Even with the recent rebound in construction of urban multifamily buildings, most new housing is still in the suburbs.

… continue reading


Even After the Housing Bust, Americans Still Love the Suburbs

Despite the recent growth of big city downtowns, there is no widespread shift toward dense, urban living. Instead, the long term suburbanization of America continues.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
October 9, 2012

For decades, Americans have chosen to live in suburbs rather than in cities. Suburban growth has outpaced urban growth, and many big cities have even lost population. But in recent years, some experts have said it’s time for cities to make a comeback. Why? Urban crime rates have fallen; many baby boomers want to live near restaurants, shops, and all the other good things that cities offer; and the housing bust has caused more people to rent instead of buy – sometimes by choice and sometimes out of necessity. Moreover, cities offer shorter commutes, a big draw given today’s higher gas prices and growing concerns about the environment.

So is there evidence that cities are really making a comeback? Earlier this year, a widely-reported Brookings analysis using 2011 Census estimates suggested that they were, reversing the long-term trend of faster suburban growth. However, it later became clear that those 2011 Census estimates should not be used for areas smaller than counties, which includes most cities and suburbs (see “the fine print” at the end of this post).

Knowing that we couldn’t use these Census data, we decided to tackle this question another way. Using U.S. Postal Service data on occupied addresses receiving mail, we calculated household growth in every ZIP code from September 2011 to September 2012. (A previous Trulia Trends post explains in more detail how these data are collected.) Consistent with earlier studies of city versus suburb growth, we compared the growth in a metro area’s biggest city with the growth in the rest of the metropolitan area, across America’s 50 largest metros.

… continue reading


House Hunters: Yes on Sprawl, No on Jobs. Huh?

Trulia’s Spring 2012 Metro Movers report takes a deep dive into why people are searching for homes where they do.

Every three months or so, we take a close look at the home searches on Trulia: where are the searchers, and where are the homes they’re looking at? This time around we’re taking a close look at why people search where they do, and we’ve uncovered these two facts:

—-  Most short-distance searches (under 100 miles away) are toward the suburbs or smaller cities.

—- Long-distance searches (more than 500 miles away) are toward more affordable markets with worse job prospects.

People want sprawl and don’t care about jobs? Of course, it’s not quite that simple – but there’s more than a grain of truth in that statement. Let’s start with the short-distance searches and move to the long-distance searches.

Staying Close, But In Need Of More Elbow Room
Over the past year (April 2011-March 2012), 44% of all the searches on Trulia were within a metro area, and 56% were to another metro area (not including searches from outside the U.S.). Of these “cross-metro” searches, roughly one-third were “short-distance” (less than 100 miles away), one-third were “middle-distance” (100 to 500 miles away), and one-third were “long-distance (more than 500 miles away). The top 10 searches were all short-distance searches, with more people looking from Los Angeles to Riverside-San Bernardino than between any other pair of metros. Of these 10, seven are from bigger to smaller metros (e.g., Dallas to Fort Worth) or from a dense urban metro to its suburbs (e.g., New York to Long Island). Here’s the list.

Table 1: Top 10 Home Searches
# Origin Metro Destination Metro
1 Los Angeles, CA Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
2 New York, NY-NJ Long Island, NY
3 Orange County, CA Los Angeles, CA
4 Dallas, TX Fort Worth, TX
5 Los Angeles, CA Orange County, CA
6 Detroit, MI Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI
7 New York, NY-NJ Newark, NJ-PA
8 Newark, NJ-PA New York, NY-NJ
9 Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI Detroit, MI
10 Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD

Note: all of these top 10 searches overall happen to be short-distance searches.

… continue reading