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Goodbye Southern California and New York. Hello, Texas and Florida.

A perfect storm of events encouraged 2020 homebuyers to take pulse-pounding chances in new and unexpected locations. What caused many to roll the dice on a new town or city was tipped off by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were other factors at play.

As a result, 15 lower-cost American secondary cities – cities near major metropolitan areas – are now considered to be the hottest places for homebuyers according to the CoreLogic 2020’s Hottest Cities for Homebuyers Report.

When COVID-19 struck, a mass exodus out of office buildings and into homes changed the lives of countless employees. Remote work gave many the ability to reconsider where their home is located. When a worker could conduct business from nearly anywhere in the world, the relationship between heading from home into a local office became far less relevant.

Photo: Joseph Frank / Unsplash

COVID-19 brought with it unforeseen challenges. Families were forced to re-evaluate their spending and savings. There was a strong desire to get away from the crowding brought on by living within the cramped quarters of the city.

As lockdowns forced people indoors, homebuyers were treated to a wealth of improved technology to aid in their search. Virtual house hours with 3-D imagery gave customers the confidence to purchase a house they had never seen in person.

“More than half of the homes we sold were to buyers who’d never physically set foot on the property,” said Deneka Waddell of Holmes Realty Group. “We’ve seen a steady increase in adoption of digital tools over the years, but 2020 really poured fuel on the fire. If you aren’t marketing listings using the latest technology, there’s no way you can compete.”

A lack of new home construction and rock bottom interest rates also led prospective homebuyers to cast a wider net beyond where they may have normally purchased. Unaffordable housing combined with high state taxes has taken the shine off of living in many of the country’s biggest cities.

“The pandemic created a perfect recipe for consistently employed Americans,” said Archana Pradhan, CoreLogic’s principal economist. “If it had been any other mix of events, for example, if low housing inventory was coupled with job inflexibility, we wouldn’t have had such a large group of homebuying consumers feeling empowered to make bold moves in their living situations.”

Secondary cities are meeting the needs of prospective buyers looking to stretch their dollars. Greater square footage and lot space can be found in these cities – a key factor especially among younger purchasers.

The urge to get out of the cold was another draw – seven out of the top 15 cities experiencing an in-migration uptick are in Florida. The sunny destination also has the draw of not having a state income tax.

Here are the top 15 cities with the highest in-migration:

1 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
2 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
3 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
4 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
5 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
6 Port St. Lucie, FL
7 Jacksonville, FL
8 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
9 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
10 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
11 Stockton, CA
12 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
13 Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ
14 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL
15 Greeley, CO

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