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House Hunters Head for the Hills After Labor Day

September marks the start of the slow season for home search in most of the country. But autumn is prime time for house hunting in vacation areas in the mountains and forests.

Labor Day marks the end of summer – and the end of the traditional house-hunting season. Based on properties viewed on the Trulia website for the full years of 2011-2013, home search activity jumps in March, stays high through summer, and then falls below the annual average in September and stays that way until the new year begins. Nationally, home searches for September and October combined are 6% below the annual average.

Does that mean that everyone looking to buy or sell a home in 2014 has missed the boat? Not necessarily. Every local market has its own seasonal pattern for house hunting. Comparing September and October search activity with annual averages in 2011-2013, we found markets where the autumn slowdown is slight. And there are a handful of local housing markets where autumn is actually prime house-hunting season – mostly vacation areas that are in the mountains and forests but not near the beach.

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International House Hunters Shifting from Vacation Areas to Urban Neighborhoods

The top countries for foreign home searches in the U.S. are Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil.

Nationally, 4.0% of the home searches on between January and May 2014 came from outside the U.S. That’s a slight decline from the same period last year, when foreign searches accounted for 4.2% of Trulia’s web search traffic. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany remain the top three countries outside the U.S. for home searches. But Brazil has pushed up to 4th place, jumping ahead of India, Mexico, and Australia. Brazil accounted for 4.1% of foreign search traffic in 2014 versus 2.9% in 2013.

# Country Share of all foreign searches, 2014 Share of all foreign searches, 2013 Change in share, 2014 vs 2013
1 Canada 18.5% 19.1% -0.6%
2 United Kingdom 10.6% 9.9% 0.6%
3 Germany 5.5% 5.5% 0.0%
4 Brazil 4.1% 2.9% 1.3%
5 India 3.7% 3.5% 0.1%
6 Mexico 3.0% 2.9% 0.1%
7 Australia 3.0% 3.3% -0.3%
8 France 2.7% 2.7% 0.0%
9 China 2.1% 2.2% -0.1%
10 Japan 2.0% 2.1% -0.1%
11 Italy 1.9% 1.9% 0.0%
12 Netherlands 1.6% 1.5% 0.1%
13 Russia 1.6% 1.5% 0.1%
14 Philippines 1.5% 1.6% -0.1%
15 South Korea 1.3% 1.2% 0.2%

The most striking change in foreign search patterns over the past year is that the foreign search share is rising in dense, urban neighborhoods but falling in vacation areas. In general, these two types of places tend to get more foreign interest than the U.S. overall does: foreign searches accounted for 4.0% of searches for U.S. homes overall, 4.7% of searches in vacation areas, and 9.4% of searches in the densest urban neighborhoods. But these two trends are moving in different directions, as the chart shows.


Note: “dense urban neighborhoods” are ZCTAs (ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, the Census approximation of ZIP codes) with at least 5,000 housing units per square mile. “Vacation areas” are ZCTAs where at least 25% of homes are for seasonal or occasional use.

Underneath these broad trends lie big differences among foreign countries and across U.S. metros neighborhoods. On to the details.

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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.

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

Check out the full infographic

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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Staycations in the Sun or Snow

Although it's been a pretty warm winter, Trulia dug through its data to figure out where house hunters can find relatively cheap vacation homes near the beach or on the slopes.

the Trulia Trends team
January 31, 2012

When it comes to winter vacations, you’ve got two options. Head up to the mountains for an adventure on the slopes or down to the coast for day at the beach. Most people book a hotel and call it a day, but for hardcore winter vacation goers, nothing less than a destination vacay home will do. Kinda gives a new meaning to the term “staycation” (aka staying home as a vacation), doesn’t it? Heh.

Here at Trulia, we’re all about helping you find your very best place to live. If that means where you live on the weekends while on vacation, we’ve got your back there too. To start off, we looked up zip codes that are practically next door to popular ski resorts or beaches. We then compared these zip codes by the median home prices.

When it came to the most expensive winter homes, nothing compared to Aspen, CO (for the ski bunnies) and Santa Monica, CA (for year-round sun worshipers). While the homes in both of these places feature some pretty incredible, over-the-top palaces, our little analysis revealed that there are also beautiful, lovely, charming, wonderful (we could carry on for days with adjectives) homes for sale in comparable climates at a fraction of the price you’ll pay in the ritzy, glitzy towns.

Ski-in to these Winter Wonderlands
In the celebrity-infested mountain town of Aspen, the median price of homes in 81611 is a whopping $1.95 million. It’s great if you’ve got the cash, but if you don’t, here are some cheaper alternatives in comparable ski-resort cities where you can get a much bigger bang for your ski-bunny buck.

Winter Vacation Homes in the Snow

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