Once again, five cities show a considerable increase in searches for “Homes for Sale” from Q2 to Q3.  What could be contributing to this growth and is this a sign of an improving housing market?

Our recent Quarterly “State of the Housing Market” report examines the top 100 cities searched on Homes.com in Q3.  The total amount of searches performed slightly decreased from the quarter before, following the seasonal trends of the real estate market, however there are five cities in this list that show a significant increase in search amount when compared to the others.  In this report, we take a look at the home buying market in these sought after areas, determine what could be driving this growth, and explain what this means for potential home buyers and sellers.

Norfolk, VA, home to the world’s largest naval base and our very own corporate headquarters, tops the list with almost an 18% increase.  Nestled in the core of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, Norfolk is considered to be the historic, urban, financial, and cultural center of the region[i].”  The current unemployment rate for this metro area is 6.5%[ii], down around 11% from the year before and much lower than the national rate; therefore, it’s easy to see why this city would become a sought after area.  A healthy job market could help support a healthy housing market.  So, what should you expect if you’re in the market to buy?  The median listing price for a single family home in this city seen on Homes.com is relatively affordable at $185,000[iii] and could be bottoming out according to the recent State of the Region report provided by Old Dominion University.

Asheville, NC ranks second with almost an 11% increase.  Located in a state known for a high unemployment rate, this city’s current unemployment rate is 7.7%, much less than the state and down 11.5% from the year before.  While the housing market for North Carolina has been suffering since 2006, areas like Asheville, with affluent retirement communities, are reported to be “doing well[iv].”  It is evident this city is highly sought after and both the job and housing market could be key factors in growth.  If you’re interested in buying a home, the median listing price for this city is fairly reasonable, though it is the highest in this list, at $250,000.

Myrtle Beach, SC, a major tourist destination in the Southeast, recently appearing on our list for America’s Top Ten Scenic Seasides for the Summer, is our third most improved city for Q3.  Situated on the center of a large stretch of beach known at the Grand Strand, this city is unfortunately no stranger to foreclosures and distressed properties.  The significant rise in unemployment and inflated housing prices in the past could have contributed to these underwater homes.  The current unemployment rate is the highest out of this list at 9.4%, though it is down around 7% from last year.  Additionally, it is reported that “sales of single-family houses along the Grand Strand are up over last year[v].”  Is there a connection with decreasing unemployment and increasing home sales?  Perhaps.  Low asking prices could additionally fuel this growth as the current median listing price is around $160,000 for the city.

Baltimore, MD joins our most improved list again this quarter, previously appearing as the #1 city in our Q2 Top 5 Most Improved Search Cities report.  It is recently noted that “with Maryland positioned in the middle corridor between New York City and Washington D.C.,locationlocationlocation continues to have a tremendous influence on specific performance in certain real estate markets[vi].”  Is this the case for this area?  In addition to location, Baltimore shows a lower unemployment rate compared with the nation at this time period and the median price is rather affordable around $180,000.  Again, the job market and low real estate prices could clearly affect an increase in demand.

Louisville, KY, the location of the famous Kentucky Derby, completes the list with a 4% increase.  Although slight, it is recently reported that “home sale prices in Louisville were 1.3 percent higher in August than they were in August 2011[vii].”  In addition, the amount of closed home sales was up 26% in this same time period, according to the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors[viii].  What’s in store for those looking to buy a home?  The median asking price, which is the lowest in this list and may be fueling the increased home sales, comes in at $149,000.

It’s apparent that a healthy job market, combined with affordable real estate prices and a record low interest rate, could be boosting the home buying market for these cities.  At Homes.com, we are thrilled to report on cities showing an improving housing market.  If you’re in these areas, now may be the time to buy!

[i] Wikipedia, Norfolk, Virginia
[ii] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian labor force and unemployment by state and metropolitan area, Not Seasonally Adjusted as of August 2012
[iii] Calculated from active Residential (single-family) listings on Homes.com as of 9/28/2012
[iv] The Wall Street Journal, Chasing the Shadows From Today’s Sunbelt, September 14, 2012
[vi] Examiner, Reports show housing market continues to improve, Pamela Mones, September 26, 2012
[vii] Business First, Louisville home prices rise by 1.3 percent in August, Kevin Eigelbach, October 2, 2012
[viii] The Lane Report, August home sales in Louisville area up 26 percent, September 19, 2012
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