Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Home Searches

Where “Back to School” Means Private School

One way or another, good schools cost money. Private school tuition can easily exceed monthly housing costs, but home prices in top-rated public school districts are 32% above the local average.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
August 13, 2014

More than two-thirds of adults with children under 12 say that the neighborhood school district is among the most important considerations when choosing a home, according to a June 2013 Trulia survey. However, some parents factor schools into their housing choices differently. Nationally, 10% of school kids grades 1-12 attend private schools, and in some neighborhoods, the majority of kids go to private school.

In recognition of the back-to-school season, we analyzed where private school enrollment is high and low across the U.S. These geographic differences reveal why parents choose private or public schools for their kids.

For parents looking to move, knowing whether neighborhood kids go to private or public schools can help them decide where to live. First, a neighborhood’s level of private school enrollment signals whether you too might want to send your kids to private school if you lived there. Second, even if you plan to send your kids to public school, the share of neighborhood children in private schools affects whether most of the neighborhood kids will be at school with them.

Who Sends Their Kids to Private School
Let’s start with two essential facts about private schools, which explain a lot about who goes to private school:

  • Essential fact #1: Just 20% of private school students attend non-sectarian schools; the other 80% are in religiously-affiliated private schools, of which half are Catholic.
  • Essential fact #2: The cost of private schools is high, but varies widely. On average, tuition is almost $11,000, not counting discounts or scholarships. This ranges from $7,000 for Catholic schools and $9,000 for other religious schools to $22,000 for non-sectarian private schools. Tuition tops out at about $40,000 for the most expensive prep schools.

Given the high cost, kids from richer families are far more likely to go to private school than kids from poorer families. Only 6% of kids in households with incomes under $50,000 attend private schools, compared with 26% of kids in households with incomes of $200,000 or more.

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Searching for Homes During the Polar Vortex

When winter strikes, home searches rise. For every ten-degree drop in temperature, searches increase by 2.6% nationally, 4.4% for homes in warm regions, and 5.5% for homes in warm vacation areas.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
January 27, 2014

Brrr. It’s cold outside – still. Winter has been rough for much of the United States, with temperatures plummeting far below normal. Here in San Francisco, where Trulia is headquartered, we’re setting record highs, not lows, but we sympathize with the rest of you. In fact, our economics team hails entirely from the lake-effect snow belt of upstate New York, so we know what it’s like to suffer through the cold and snow.

And while our Trulia team members have up and moved to California, leaving the brutal winters of our childhoods behind, it’s apparent that many of you are also dreaming of warmer locales. We analyzed search traffic on Trulia between December 1, 2013, and January 21, 2014, to see how daily temperature fluctuations affected home-search patterns (see note below). It’s clear as a bone-chilling winter morning: when the cold wind blows, home searches increase – especially for homes in warmer parts of the country.

Searching for Warmth When the Mercury Drops
Nationally, home searches increased by 2.6% overall for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature dropped. Why? In part because cold weather keeps people inside where they do more indoor activities, including searching for real estate online. But cold weather doesn’t simply cause people to do more of everything to an equal degree. When temperatures plummet, searches for homes within the searcher’s own metro rise 2.2%, while searches for homes outside the searcher’s own metro rise 2.9%.

And the colder it gets, the better warm looks. For every 10-degree temperature drop that occurs where a house hunter resides, we see a 4.4% increase in searches for homes in warm regions, which is bigger than the increase in searches overall. While some of this searching might reflect the desire to move to a warmer place and leave winter behind permanently, the increase in searches for homes in sunny vacation spots is even higher: a 5.5% jump for every 10-degree temperature decline. In other words, searches for homes in warm vacation destinations increase more than twice as much as home searches overall. 

National Search Patterns When the Temperature Drops

Searches for homes in:

Increase in searches for each 10-degree drop where the searcher is

U.S. overall


Within searcher’s own metro


Outside searcher’s own metro


Outside searcher’s own metro, warm regions only


Outside searcher’s own metro, warm vacation areas only


Based on searches by people in the colder regions of the country.

Honey, I’m Freezing. Let’s Move to Miami.
Breaking these search patterns down further, we can see which metro’s homes get the biggest search boost when winter weather strikes. Miami benefits most, with a 7.3% climb in searches for every 10-degree temperature drop in wintry regions, followed by Phoenix and Jacksonville. And among the 10 metros that get the biggest rise in searches when temperatures plunge, only one – Dayton, OH – is outside the South and West.  … continue reading

Where Americans Look for Vacation Homes Visualization Preview

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Where Americans Look for Vacation Homes

The top vacation spots for home searches range from expensive Nantucket to affordable Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. People look for vacation homes nearby, rather than across the country.

Every year, Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer vacation season. As people across the country start planning their summertime escapes, we analyzed search traffic on Trulia to discover the most popular areas for vacation homes. (See note at end about methodology.) We found that median prices in the most popular vacation spots in America span a huge range, from just under $180,000 in Gatlinburg, TN, to ten times that much in Nantucket. We also found that people tend to look at vacation areas close to home rather than across the country.

America’s Top Vacation-Home Spots
The two most-searched vacation ZIP codes in America are both in Cape May, NJ: Ocean City and North Wildwood. The top vacation areas also include Kissimmee, Marco Island, and Panama City Beach, all in Florida. In California, the most popular locations for a vacation home are Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead near Los Angeles, and in the north, Truckee and South Lake Tahoe.

America’s Top 20 Vacation-Home ZIP Codes

# ZIP code Neighborhood County Median price


Ocean City Cape May, NJ




North Wildwood Cape May, NJ




Kissimmee Osceola, FL




Ocean City Worcester, MD




Marco Island Collier, FL




Big Bear Lake San Bernardino, CA




Lake Arrowhead San Bernardino, CA




Panama City Beach Bay, FL




Gatlinburg Sevier, TN




Cherry Grove Beach Horry, SC




Santa Rosa Beach Walton, FL




Harvey Cedars Ocean, NJ




Fort Morgan Baldwin, AL




South Lake Tahoe El Dorado, CA




Truckee Nevada, CA




East Hampton Suffolk, NY




Palm Springs Riverside, CA




South Padre Island Cameron, TX




Destin Okaloosa, FL




Nantucket Nantucket, MA


Among the top 20 vacation ZIP codes, the most expensive are Nantucket and East Hampton, where the median asking price is well over a million. The least expensive are in the South: Gatlinburg, TN, at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Cherry Grove Beach, near Myrtle Beach, SC.

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It’s Peak Season for Housing Somewhere Visualization Preview

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It’s Peak Season for Housing Somewhere

Consumers look for homes most in March and April. However, peak-search season happens now in Hawaii and Florida, but is six months away in Montana and Oregon.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
January 30, 2013

As winter’s end approaches, the housing market wakes up. All key measures of housing activity–searches, prices, starts, sales, and inventories–typically hit their annual lows in December or January. But at the start of each year, would-be buyers come out of hibernation first: search behavior starts to pick up in January, reaching its peak in March and remaining strong through August. Sales and inventories then peak later in the year. But local housing markets have their own rhythms. To see when each state’s housing market heats up, we looked at six years of search history on Trulia – January 2007 to December 2012 – for properties in every state. (This is based on the state where the property is located, which is not necessarily where the person searching is located.) Of course, Trulia’s site traffic has grown dramatically over these years, so we used a seasonal adjustment model to strip out the upward trend and uncover the regular seasonal rhythms of search behavior across the country.

Nationally, the peak months of search activity are March and April. After a slight dip in May, there’s a second peak in the summer months of June and July. As the year ends, search activity drops off. December is the slowest month, followed by November. At the state level, though, the peak month for search activity ranges from as early as January to as late as August. This month, January, is Hawaii’s peak month for search activity. Next month, February, is the top month for search traffic in Florida. In these warm states, winter weather is good for home searches and going to open houses. Across much of the country, though, home search activity peaks in the springtime, including in the Midwest, the Plains, and much of the West and Northeast. The summertime – June through August – is the peak for most of the South and a few states in the Northwest and northern New England. No state enjoys peak season in September, October, November, or December.

Even though the earliest two states to peak each year–Florida and Hawaii–are warm, southerly states, and the last two states —  Montana and Oregon – are northernly, home searches generally peak later in the South than in the Northeast, Midwest, and Plains. Why do Minnesotans search most in March and April, rather than in the warmer summer? And why do Mississippians look most in June and July, rather than in the milder spring? To avoid the rain: in most of the Northeast, Midwest, and Plains, it rains less in the spring than in the height of summer, but in many Southern states, it rains less in the summer than in the spring. The punchline: warm weather is good for search traffic, but dry weather helps, too.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening right now. The interactive map shows, for each state, whether search activity is above or below the annual average for that state. (That means every state is above its own annual average in some months and below in other months.) In January, search activity in most states is already out of the winter slump and is above the annual average. In Florida and Hawaii, January search traffic is more than 10% above each state’s annual average. January search traffic is below the annual average only in four New England states – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island – plus North Dakota and the District of Columbia.

Click on the February button at the top of the interactive map, and you’ll see that Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin are more than 10% above their annual average. In every month from March through July, all (or all but one) states are above their annual average in search traffic. By October, every state is at least a little below its annual average of search activity, and in December every state is 10% or more below its annual average.

It’s clear that housing swings with the seasons in every state. But where are the swings biggest? Maine, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Ohio have the largest changes in search traffic throughout the year. In contrast, search traffic fluctuates least over the year in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Hawaii, and Idaho. So whether you’re looking to buy or sell, get in sync with the rhythms of your local housing market. Home sellers looking for the most buyers should list when search traffic peaks. Home buyers, however, should think about searching off-season – they might find less competition.


Your Home’s Lucky Number

Marketing psychology, tradition, and superstition can sneak into home prices. Here are the secrets to setting a “lucky” asking price for your home.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
November 8, 2012

What tricks do sellers and their agents use when setting the price of a home? To find out, we looked at the asking prices of homes for sale on Trulia since October 2011, excluding foreclosures, to see whether certain numbers show up in home prices more than others. We found that some numbers are a lot more popular than others, and different lucky numbers turn up in home prices in different regions of country.

Of course, lucky numbers aren’t the only factor sellers and their agents use in setting asking prices. A seller who loves the number 54 isn’t going to price a home at $540,000 if it’s really worth $200,000. But they might work “54” somewhere into the price without straying too much from the home’s expected value, such as pricing at $200,540.

To find patterns, we looked for numbers that appeared anywhere in the asking price, and we paid special attention to the “last non-zero digit” in the price. For instance, in the above example, the last non-zero digit of $200,540 is 4, and the last non-zero digit is 9 in $149,999, $259,900, and $11,900,000.  Nearly all home prices – 96% – end in 0, and the vast majority – 91% – end in 00. The last non-zero digit is the number that “costs” the least to set based on marketing psychology, tradition, or superstition because it won’t change the value of the home as much as digits further up in the price. It turns out that 9 is, by far, the most popular last non-zero digit in asking prices, so let’s start there.

The Power of 9
The number 9 shows up in a lot of everyday prices. A Ronco knife set costs $39.99, the featured product on Trader Joe’s website last week was roasted & mashed sweet potatoes for $2.49, and my 16-gig iPad mini is $329. Why do prices of goods so often end in 9? One theory is that people rarely have exact change when a price ends in 9, and in a traditional retail store the cashier needs to open the register to make change, and therefore can’t cheat the storeowner by pocketing the cash and not recording the sale. Of course, that’s irrelevant in a world of credit cards, debit cards, and online shopping, so another reason prices end in 9 is perception: those Ronco knives sound like a much better deal at $39.99 than at $40 because the price is in the $30 range, rather than in the $40 range.

Do home prices use the same psychology? Absolutely. Even though the vast majority of home prices end in 0, the most common last non-zero digit is 9: more than half – 53% – of home prices have 9 as their last non-zero digit. The next most common is 5, which is a nice halfway point between round numbers. No other digit comes close to 9 and 5.

Your Home's Lucky Number Pie Chart

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