Where Home Buyers are Searching for Homes–And What They Want Nearby

Two reports shed light on home buyer hot spots–and what’s attracting them to those areas.

Zillow, Seattle, said Las Vegas is the most popular U.S. destination for non-local home shoppers; Minneapolitans don’t want to move out of the area–and hardly anybody else wants to move in–and Texans seem to mostly love living in Texas.

And when people find those homes, said Redfin, Seattle, they want things nearby, such as walking distance of schools, shopping and parks.

The Zillow analysis of search data in the largest U.S. markets of where Americans aspire to find their next home found Las Vegas gets the biggest share of Zillow traffic from outside of its metro area of any of the 50 largest U.S. metros, due mainly to heavy interest from Los Angeles.

The report said nearly 61% of page views of Las Vegas homes come from non-local searchers, with 17.9% coming from Los Angeles/Orange County–the highest share from a non-neighboring metro anywhere in the country. Accounting for the 2.8% of views coming from Riverside, that’s more than a fifth of all Las Vegas home searches coming from the broader Los Angeles area.

Other large metros with a majority of searches coming from outside are Jacksonville, San Antonio, Riverside, Raleigh and New Orleans.

The analysis noted as an affordability ceiling has been reached in the most expensive areas of the country, search habits seem to suggest locals in these areas are at least considering a move to less-expensive pastures. In addition to Las Vegas, a relatively high share of searches by Los Angeles residents were on homes in Phoenix (2.6%) and San Diego (2.5%). Meanwhile, Sacramento is being looked at by residents of the Bay Area, taking up 6.5% of searches from San Francisco and 5.1% from San Jose. New Yorkers are viewing places up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Philadelphia (2.3% of New York searches), all the way down to Miami (2%).

“Americans tend to be mobile, regularly seeking out new homes in an effort to balance career opportunities, family needs and the kinds of lifestyles available in our diverse country,” said Zillow Economist Jeff Tucker. “The homes people view on Zillow paint a real-time picture of Americans’ changing aspirations and preferences, sometimes years before they show up in public survey data. Search trends from 2019 reveal the ongoing movement of people out of the Northeast, as New Yorkers especially drift southward into the Sun Belt, and a few Midwestern cities where households are likely to stay put – St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland. And in another way, they demonstrate our curious nature. Whether they’re considering a job they don’t end up taking, checking out a place a friend just moved into or simply daydreaming about what life might be like in another part of the country, vastly more people view listings in another city than actually move out of town in any given year.”

When looking at places where the largest share of searches come from locals, it makes sense that the biggest metros top the list — they by definition have more potential searchers. However, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro beats the odds to rank third in the country despite having the 16th-largest population. Just 24.1% of searches on Twin Cities homes come from outside of the area, indicating that residents want to stick around and few others want to join them.

On the other side of the coin are metros where locals are looking at homes anywhere but in their hometown. Topping that list with just 30.1% of residents’ searches being done on local homes is Nashville, one of the fastest-growing cities over the past few years. This could show that residents are looking elsewhere after the rapid price increases during the population boom, or simply mean that Nashvillians are more curious about out-of-town real estate than the average American. The other metros with the lowest shares of local searches are Salt Lake City (31.1%), San Jose (35.3%), Orlando (37.2%) and Charlotte (39%).

The report said outside searches from three of the four largest metros in Texas — Houston, San Antonio and Austin — are most often on homes in other Texas metros. But residents in Dallas-Fort Worth may be yearning to make their way out of the Lone Star State — their most popular destinations are Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Meanwhile, Redfin said homes within walking distance of schools, shopping, parks and other urban amenities sell for an average of 23.5%, or $77,668, more than comparable properties that are car dependent, according to a new report from Redfin

To determine how much walkability is worth when buying or selling a house, Redfin looked at sale prices and Walk Score rankings for nearly one million homes sold last year across 16 major U.S. metropolitan areas and two Canadian cities.

Nearly a quarter of active Redfin listings are considered walkable, or have a Walk Score ranking of 50 to 100, although only about 4% are a “walker’s paradise,” or have a Walk Score of 90 and above. While house hunters are willing to spend more for walkability, the premium they’ve paid for properties in this category has slipped 2.3% since the last time Redfin conducted this report, in 2016, when such homes in the U.S. sold for 25.8% more than car-dependent ones.

“The premium drop is tied to affordability,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Properties that are more affordable are seeing the most demand and price growth right now, and homes in less walkable neighborhoods often fall into this category. There just aren’t as many people who can afford walkable neighborhoods. Many house hunters are also willing to move to less walkable neighborhoods in order to get single-family homes.”

Redfin said home-sale prices have been rising faster in car-dependent areas than in walkable places since September 2018. Prices in car-dependent neighborhoods climbed 4.3% year over year in July to a median of $312,100, compared with a 2.3% annual increase in walkable locations, the data showed.

The results for this report differed by metro area. In Boston, walkability increased the value of a home by 29%, or $140,724, the highest premium in dollar terms of all of the U.S. regions analyzed.

“Boston is very flat, and one of the most walkable cities around,” said Redfin Boston team manager April Itano. “Parking can be difficult, so people often prefer to live near public transportation. We’ve had standalone parking spots sell for six figures in some neighborhoods. Our public transportation is great compared to other cities, and it’s pretty easy to get by without a vehicle if you live downtown. We also have a relatively high percentage of residents who prefer to work and live in the city over the suburbs.”

In Oakland, however, walkable homes sold for 1.3% less, or $9,477, than car-dependent homes. The benefits of walkability have also changed over time. In 2016, Atlanta garnered the highest walkability premium—38%—of any metro area. In 2019, it boasted a 30.2% premium. That’s still the highest of all areas Redfin analyzed in percentage terms, but it also marks the largest premium drop. Meanwhile, Tampa saw the biggest boost, with an increase of 6.3% since 2016.