Several SaksWorks will also be located outside of the city for suburbanites who need a break from working from home.
All of the images shown below are from the partnership’s Brookfield Place location in New York City, but there will also be three additional New York locations – in Manhasset, Scarsdale, and Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship in the city – and one in Greenwich, Connecticut.
The Brookfield Place location is replacing a former Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s store, while the SaksWorks in Saks Fifth Avenue is taking the place of a 10th floor children’s section.
“With HBC, we take the first step toward expanding our technology platform product offering and providing a differentiated approach to how landlords can incorporate flexible space across their portfolio,” Sandeep Mathrani, WeWork’s CEO, said in the press release.
The American Dream of a house with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard is hanging by a thread this year.
Record-low mortgage rates and the era of remote work kicked off hot demand for a home that collided headlong with a historic housing shortage, resulting in real estate that was nearly unattainable. Sky-high prices and fewer homes available have been no match for homebuyers, who’ve found themselves caught in cutthroat competition.
But some came out on top in bidding wars. Zillow’s 2021 Consumer Housing Trends Report took a look at homebuyers in 2021. It found that while the average homebuyer is middle-aged, many are in their 30s. For most, it wasn’t their first time buying a home, and the hunt wasn’t easy. Many had to make multiple offers and paid a lot more than they originally planned.
They mostly bought homes in the suburbs in the south, where more houses were available. Those who moved typically stayed in their metro area, switching neighborhoods or relocating to a nearby city.
Here’s a look at the typical homebuyer, according to the Zillow report.
The average homebuyer is 45 years old, but about a quarter of buyers are in their 30s.
New homebuyers are typically younger than homeowners who haven’t moved within the previous year, but older than the general renter population, according to the Zillow report. It found that the largest cohort of homebuyers (26%) is between ages 30 to 39. Twenty-three percent of buyers are ages 40 to 49, and another 23% are over age 60.
They’re also typically white.
Only 7% of buyers are Black; 73% are white.
It’s reflective of a homeownership gap that has intensified during the pandemic. According to the Urban Institute, Black homeowners were more likely than white homeowners to miss or defer their mortgage payment due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
By the end of 2020, three-fourths of white Americans owned homes compared to less than half (44.1%) of Black Americans, per US Census data.
“African Americans and minorities have lost their jobs at greater rates during COVID, so the idea of purchasing a home is probably being pushed even longer off,” Dr. Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), told TIME.
They earn more than the overall US population, with a median household income of about $86,000.
The national median household income in 2019 was $65,700, according to Zillow.
It found that while the homeownership rate for college-educated people fluctuated over the past two decades, it started at 68.5% and was at that same level in 2017. The share of homeowners with no high school diploma, however, dropped from 57% to 48% during the same time period.
“Millennials’ lifestyle and economic decisions are some of the main reasons we currently have a lower homeownership rate than expected,” Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American, said in the report.
The typical homebuyer has their own family; they’re married or partnered with kids and a pet.
More than half (57%) of homebuyers are married or partnered. While 40% have a child under the age of 18 living with them, they’re more likely to have a pet: 57% have at least one dog and 39% have a cat.
Marriage is “strongly correlated” with buying a home, according to the First American report. It found that the homeownership rate among married couples is a full 30 percentage points higher than it is for non-married people.
Research shows this is especially true for low-income homebuyers, who buy homes at higher rates and more quickly if they’re married.
Most homebuyers are living in the south, where more houses are available.
Forty percent of homebuyers live in the south, with 23% each in the west and midwest. Only 15% of buyers live in the northeast.
These stats not only reflect regions with more housing inventory — which is dwindling nationwide — but how different states’ attitudes to zoning have shaped migration patterns during the pandemic. Many Americans relocated to Sun Belt states like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida, where it’s cheaper and easier to build houses. Phoenix, Miami, and Austin in particular have all been city hot spots.
Despite stories of a mass exodus from big cities, most homebuyers bought within their metro areas – although some changed neighborhoods or cities.
Nearly 40% of buyers stayed in the same city but switched neighborhoods, while 19% moved to a new city within their metro area. Only 15% percent of buyers moved to a different state, up from 11% in 2019.
Those who didn’t stay in the metro area still remained close by in the northeast, heading out east to Long Island and upstate to Westchester and Suffolk Counties. Some ventured a bit farther, to cities like Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Philadelphia.
Still, these are all areas with relatively short traveling times to the city, and trips that are easier to make if you don’t commute every day, reflecting how widespread working from home is expanding regional labor markets.
And they’re typically residing in the suburbs.
Many buyers (44%) said they bought their home in the suburbs, followed by 38% are urban buyers and 19% are rural buyers.
However, the exurbs are starting to see a boom thanks to the end of the daily commute and the search for more affordable housing. Occupancy in exurbs, or less dense areas beyond the suburbs, continued to climb in May and June by more than 20,000 people each month, while both months saw Americans exit cities and suburbs.
“Instead of thinking about the daily commute, it’s going to be the case that renters and homebuyers are going to be thinking about the weekly commute,” Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, previously told Insider. “That does expand the geographic area in which they can choose where to live and gives them some additional buying power.”
The typical homebuyer bought a three-bed, three-bath single-family detached home between 1,000 and 1,999 square feet.
The historic housing crisis stemming from a dozen years of underbuilding, the pandemic, and, partly, a lumber shortage has left buyers scrambling as the number of houses available swiftly declines.
The number of townhome buyers increased by 2 percentage points to 11% over the past year and number of condo buyers increased by four percentage points to 10%.
Most homebuyers also looked for more storage space than usual, indicating the new normal of remote work. It was important to three-fourths of buyers this year, compared to 68% in 2020.
For most 2021 homebuyers, this wasn’t their first rodeo.
As housing prices have soared, the number of first-time homebuyers has declined over the past few years, before dropping even further from 43% in 2020 to 37% in 2021.
“Now that [millennials] have economically recovered and are looking to buy a home for the first time, we’re faced with this housing shortage,” Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist at Redfin, previously told Insider. “They’re already boxed out of the housing market.”
The typical homebuyer had to make multiple offers when house hunting – they typically went over budget once they bought their house.
Nearly 60% of homebuyers made two or more offers, up from 42% in 2020. More than one-third (28%) of buyers also went over budget, compared to 23% in 2018, especially those paying with a mortgage rather than all cash.
Today’s buyer also shopped around for more homes. More than half (56%) of buyers attended between one and four open houses in 2021, up from 44% in 2018.
It all says a lot about the current state of the housing market, which is hot with demand and cutthroat competition. The typical house is getting snatched up in less than a month as aspiring homebuyers find themselves in bidding wars, putting in all-cash offers and offering higher down payments.
The good news is that after months of record-high prices, new data indicates that the housing market may slowly be cooling off.
The story of housing in Berkeley, California, is one of retribution.
The city was the first in the US to enact single-family residential zoning, an explicitly racist type of legislation that restricted each housing lot to one unit. The 1916 vote sparked a wave of similar zoning laws across the country. More than a century later, the status quo is changing. Those flawed zoning practices of old are just now starting to get tossed out, thanks in part to Berkeley’s 37-year-old mayor Jesse Arreguín.
Berkeley is an affluent college town located just 14 miles from the center of San Francisco. While most of its residents are white, it’s also home to fairly large Asian American and Hispanic populations. Median household income was $85,500 at the end of 2019 – 24% higher than the national average – but nearly one-fifth of its population lives in poverty. It’s also endured a serious homelessness crisis for decades, making it a fitting proxy for the now-national housing crisis.
One flashpoint in the debate on how to solve the crisis is a generational divide. The boomers who want to protect their property values are loath to allow denser development, and the millennials priced out of the market advocate a YIMBY, or “yes in my backyard,” approach. The alternative is the NIMBY, or not in my backyard, status quo.
Jesse Arreguín is such a millennial, but he also happens to be Berkeley’s mayor, and a development-opposer turned YIMBY (although he told Insider he doesn’t like to use the “pejorative” acronyms). He championed the contentious legislation that placed Berkeley among the few US cities to eliminate single-family zoning. The March vote kicked off an 18-month process that will overhaul the city’s zoning, and shore up home supply.
The mayor previously pushed back against efforts to develop larger apartment complexes in the city. Now he’s among the most vocal supporters of denser housing and more residential development.
Insider spoke with Arreguín about his change of heart, his city’s housing needs, and how he aims to solve the affordability crisis. Here’s a transcript of the interview, lightly edited for brevity.
Insider’s Ben Winck: Berkeley set the benchmark for exclusionary zoning around a century ago. How do you see that coexisting with its recent push for zoning reform?
Mayor Jesse Arreguín of Berkeley, California: There are many things that Berkeley is first for, and many things I’m proud of that Berkeley has initiated. But unfortunately, in 1916, neighbors in the exclusive Elmwood district advocated for single-family zoning as a way to exclude a dance hall. It goes without saying that some of the people that would be patronized in the dance hall were principally African American and people of color.
So, single-family zoning was established on a foundation of racism in Berkeley and it’s the basis upon which our zoning is built. That was further exacerbated by racial covenants and racial discrimination. Lending and leasing of housing in our city really walled off parts of Berkeley to African Americans, Asian Americans, and working-class people. It created the foundation of racial exclusion that we are trying to undo now.
As the city that initiated single-family zoning, and as a city that’s very committed to addressing systemic racism, we have to take the lead in dismantling single-plan zoning and the foundation of racial exclusion that has affected generations of people in our city. Part of Berkeley’s efforts is acknowledging that what happened was wrong and that we’re learning from our past mistakes and we’re trying to correct them. Winck: Your perspective on this has also shifted over time. You previously called an upzoning bill “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods,” but more recently you’ve been very pro-housing and pro-development.
What prompted that change of heart, and how has that changed your view of Berkeley’s identity?
Arreguín: I can’t sit back and see more people being priced out of my city, more people experiencing homelessness, and say that the status quo is working. It’s not working.
The rise in homelessness that we’re seeing in Berkeley and the Bay Area is a direct result of our housing crisis. The fact that we do not have available and affordable housing is literally pushing people out onto the streets and pushing people out of our state. It’s just wrong. We have a moral obligation to guarantee housing for all people. I do believe that housing is a human right.
My perspective on the issue has definitely evolved over the years. For a long time I was skeptical about market-rate housing as a solution to addressing a broader affordability crisis.
What I came to realize is, some of the challenges that we’re seeing in the Bay Area are due to decades of underproduction of housing. The scarcity of housing is putting increased displacement pressure on people in Berkeley and throughout the Bay Area.
We have to embrace housing for people of all income levels.
The severity of the crisis is what really changed my perspective. Opposing new housing or putting restrictions on new developments stands in the way of progress.
Winck: This problem is a complicated one, but can be summarized by the NIMBY versus YIMBY debate. The former characterizes efforts to protect property values at the expense of new development, while the latter describes the movement for denser housing development championed by millennials and Gen Zers.
What would you say to people who would call your former views NIMBY-esque?
Arreguín: Well, I never really use those pejoratives, frankly. But it is true that I was very skeptical of market-rate housing and was very critical of new housing projects. I felt that we needed to focus our efforts on permanently affordable housing, strengthening renter protections, and preventing displacement.
I didn’t understand that, if you build more housing, that reduces displacement pressure because somebody who can afford a new apartment can move in there rather than pricing out an existing tenant.
That’s why I believe we need an all-of-the-above approach. We need to build housing for people at all income levels, from above-market to moderate-income, with a particular focus on workforce housing.
We need to build entry-level ownership housing so that people that have lived in their apartments actually have an opportunity to own the home and can pass on that wealth to future generations.
And obviously we need to address the needs of our low and extremely low-income people, including our homeless.
My views have been shaped by my own lived experience. I am a lifelong tenant. I grew up in San Francisco and during the last Dot Com boom faced displacement. So I know what it’s like to be evicted. I know the uncertainty of not knowing where you’re going to live next.
I’m also a millennial. Unless there’s significant effort to build more housing, I’m never going to own a home in the community that I represent, with median home prices at $1.5 million. I’m never going to be able to afford that. I just think it’s fundamentally wrong that we are literally pricing out future generations from being able to own a home.
Winck: Pivoting back to the YIMBY movement, those pro-housing ideas have picked up steam over the last few years. To what degree do you support its ideas? And where do you think it could improve?
Arreguín: I think it’s critical that we hear from the voices of young people that cannot afford to live in Berkeley.
Oftentimes the people that we hear in city council meetings around projects or around land-use issues are people that own their homes. And their voice does absolutely matter, but so does the voice of young people and tenants who are directly impacted by the shortage of affordable housing.
It’s extremely important to have a very vocal pro-housing constituency, certainly on the regional level. And there’s an increasing awareness that the YIMBY movement needs to align with stronger rent control and tenant protections, and the need to understand the issues around gentrification and displacement.
I don’t see the tenant advocates and pro-housing advocates as in conflict. I think they have a lot in common. At the end of the day, it’s about creating more homes and opportunities for people to live in our region while also keeping people living in our region here.
I really subscribe to the three Ps: to produce new housing; preserve existing, naturally occurring, affordable housing; and protect existing tenants.
Winck: Do you see any way to achieve those three Ps while retaining the status quo in residential zoning?
Arreguín: As a state, estimates are that we need 3.5 million new homes. And we need 1 million or more new homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. So there’s a really critical shortage.
It is going to require that we look very thoughtfully and look hard at where can we upzone? Where can we build? It will take looking at converting old malls into housing projects. Looking at densifying our transit corridors and building around our transit stations. And yes, looking at adding fourplexes and density in our single-family residential neighborhoods.
There’s been a lot of fear-mongering over allowing fourplexes and multi-unit housing in residential neighborhoods. We’re not talking about building skyscrapers in single-family residential neighborhoods. If you could go through the city of Berkeley, we have a diverse environment in our neighborhoods. We have single-family homes next to apartment buildings.
And it could be done very thoughtfully while also adding needed housing. We think this is critical not just to correct generations of racial exclusion, but to address our regional housing goals and to make sure that we can create new opportunities for people to live in our city.
Former President Donald Trump’s property tax was slashed for his Chicago office tower because the building’s commercial space was mostly vacant, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The building’s retail space had its assessed value cut to $12.5 million, down from $19.9 million, the report said. The assessed value was cut by about 37% because about 95% of the square footage was vacant, the report said.
“We provided a reduction based on vacancy,” a spokesperson from the assessor’s office told The Sun-Times.
With the lower valuation, Trump’s property taxes for the commercial space fell to $698,399 for 2020, down from $1 million the year prior, the report said.
The glass-faced Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago has a prominent spot in the city’s skyline. It sits along the north side of the Chicago River, straddling the line between the Loop and the River North neighborhoods.
The building’s official website describes it as “a showcase of bold style and engaging design situated along the Chicago river.”
But it’s had difficultly attracting commercial tenants for the bottom three floors, including its ground-floor retail space, reports have said.
The building was “losing money hand over fist,” Vanity Fair said. The tower’s profit fell 89% in the four years ended in 2018, The Washington Post reported. One real estate blog, The Real Deal, said in 2019 that the building was Chicago retail’s “biggest failure.”
The building’s reappraisal came a few months after Illinois officials said the value had been assessed higher than it should have been in 2011. In July, the Cook County Board of Review ruled that Trump was owed a $1 million refund on that year’s taxes.
The building’s official website said the Chicago tower was the fourth-tallest building in the US. Wikipedia now lists it as seventh, with three newer New York City towers higher on the list.
While the influx of new residents poses challenges – home prices skyrocketed across the country throughout 2021 – few areas have seen values soar as much as the southwest.
In the process, a small group of Americans made out out in the pandemic-era market.
Some of the biggest winners of pandemic-era moves were those who didn’t move at all. Residents in southwestern cities and suburbs now have “awesome equity” in their homes, Ali Wolf, chief economist at real estate data firm Zonda, told Insider.
“There’s this huge divide between the locals and the newcomers,” Wolf added. “The out-of-towner comes in and doesn’t really balk at pricing. But a local will look at pricing and say, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so much more expensive.'”
That divide helped some locals capitalize on the boom. Cristian Mendoza, 25, left Baytown, Texas for El Rancho, New Mexico – a town roughly one hour from Santa Fe – after getting a better job. And while he’s held onto his home in Texas, he’s seen prices for Houston-area properties “go up pretty significantly over the last two years.”
For now, Mendoza is watching his Texas property appreciate, and he’s biding his time on splashing out in New Mexico.
“I don’t see myself buying a house over here anytime soon, just because of the prices. I’m probably going to be renting for a couple of years unless I find something cheaper a little bit outside of town,” he said.
2. Retirees and movers from the coasts
Americans coming to the southwest from expensive coastal hubs like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles might be paying a premium in local terms, but they’re getting a discount from the cities they left.
David Church, 48, already owned a home in Henderson, Nevada, before COVID struck. The newly built house was meant to be an investment property, but the Church family moved in once they realized it brought many of the upsides southern California had to offer, but at a much lower price.
Their home in Oak Park, California, sold in four days and they’ve been living in Nevada since July. Having a home ready to move into helped the Churches reap the rewards of soaring California home prices without getting trapped as a buyer in a seller’s market.
“We were able to leverage our house without needing to find a place to buy. That helped us out quite a bit,” Church said, adding he’s still looking to buy another home near Phoenix. “As inflation goes, if you’re not buying up, you’re going to be left behind.”
Retirees also benefitted from pandemic moving trends. The COVID recession pulled forward millions of retirements, and several southwestern cities were already rife with retirement communities.
“If they’re living in a move expensive area, they can tap their equity, move to this 55-plus community, and have an instant connection with their neighbors because it’s an age-targeted area,” Zonda’s Wolf said.
3. Well-to-do millennials
Many pandemic-era movers are millennials looking to find their first homes. But where those leaving one home for another can tap equity from their current property, first-time buyers don’t enjoy the same benefit. And as millennials sit in their peak homebuying years, demand for affordable homes is soaring.
Middle- and high-income millennials will have the easiest time in the red-hot market, Wolf said. They can afford homes and condos in increasingly expensive cities, and while the market is set to cool, it’s unlikely prices will fall in the most popular urban centers, she added.
“There will be a class of millennials who are absolutely thriving in today’s environment,” Wolf said. “They have enough money or enough support from their family where they can make it work, and they don’t have to compromise location for affordability.”
Now, Moliving is capitalizing on this unconventional vacation trend by creating mobile standalone hotel rooms.
The company sees itself as a “compliment to the traditional hotel model” instead of a replacement of the classic hotel, Jordan Bem, founder and CEO of Moliving, told Insider in an email interview.
“While a perfect solution for many, we don’t see traditional hotels going away,” Bem said.
Unlike other prefab living space makers, Moliving owns all of its mobile hotel units.
The actual hotel space then serves as a partnership between the brand and the respective landowners or developers.
And once the contract has expired with no intention to renew, Moliving can remove its units and tow them elsewhere.
This mobility also allows companies to tweak their room inventories to match the varying levels of demand throughout the year, eliminating what Bem calls “the biggest pain point for every seasonal hotel.”
For example, a beach town property can increase the number of units during high traffic summer months and then scale back during the winter travel slump.
And unlike a typical hotel building that could take years of construction, a Moliving unit can be built in three to five months.
Each unit then starts at $150,000, the company told Insider in an email statement.
The initial 60 units for Moliving’s first project will be built by SG Blocks, a modular prefab construction company.
The standalone hotel rooms can also use UV sanitation to recycle grey water, therefore reducing freshwater consumption …
… and can be stacked to create a multi-floor unit.
The first Moliving units will be used in the upcoming Hurley House, an “eco-resort” in Hudson Valley, New York that’s set to open this winter at $259 per night, Tim McKeough reported for the New York Times.
In Argentina, a wealthy gated community has been taken over by unexpected visitors: the world’s largest rodents, capybaras.
Located in the capital Buenos Aires, Nordelta’s manicured lawns have been occupied by rampaging capybaras munching on the grass, attacking dogs, and pooping where they like, local news outlet La Nacion reports.
Environmental advocates say the influx of dog-sized rodents should not be a shock, as the neighborhood’s luxury homes were built next to wetlands. Some of the animals are coming back to find what they once knew.
Argentinian environmental lawyer and ecologist Enrique Viale said that we shouldn’t see the capybaras – known as “carpinchos” in Argentina – as invading the areas.
“Wealthy real-estate developers with government backing have to destroy nature to sell clients the dream of living in the wild – because the people who buy those homes want nature, but without the mosquitoes, snakes, or carpinchos,” he added.
“Nordelta is the supersized paradigm of gated communities built on wetlands. The first thing it does is take away the absorbent function of the land, so when there are extreme weather events, the poorer surrounding neighborhoods end up flooded. As always, it is the poor who end up paying the price.”
Many people take the view of Viale, with one person tweeting “My support to the Peronist capybaras of Nordelta recovering their habitat.”
Adding to the support, one person replied “The capybara revolution!!”
The Parana wetlands cover a large swath of the country, from Northern Argentina to the River Plate and Atlantic ocean, but is being diminished as developers take the land to build on and for cattle and soy farms.
In 2020, the vast wetlands were engulfed in flames due to cattle ranching, drought, and soaring temperatures.
Former President Donald Trump is in talks with hotel companies to sell the leasing rights to his hotel in Washington, DC, sources told Axios.
The hotel is located on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House in the 122-year-old Old Post Office building, which Trump leases from the federal government.
The former president would sell the leasing rights to the Trump International Hotel to a real estate developer, who would then negotiate with hotel companies that would manage the property and overhaul it, according to the Axios report.
The full details of the deal are still unknown, but Axios reported that “Trump’s representatives have been in talks with major hotel chains and investors.”
The former president sought to sell the leased federal property in 2019, while he was still in office, and sources told Axios that he was likely to receive less than the $500 million that he reportedly sought that year.
Trump leases the Old Post Office property from the General Services Administration (GSA) under a 60-year agreement put into place in 2013, according to Axios. In 2017, the GSA said that the Trump Organization was paying $250,000 monthly in base rent, which was slated to rise with inflation costs.
However, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with Trump’s election loss and his subsequent move to Florida – the hotel’s profits plummeted in 2020.
According to CNN, sales at the DC hotel declined by 63 percent last year compared with 2019, when the Trump Organization was looking into a possible sale.
Trump, who has continued to hold campaign-style rallies across the country as a private citizen, is still eyeing a 2024 presidential bid – this week, GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said on video that the former president is “ready to announce” a run, but a spokesperson for the lawmaker denied that he made the statement.
The American Southwest was already the hottest place to be. COVID-19 turned that up to 11.
Several of the fastest-growing metro areas over the last decade were in the southwest corner of the country. Warm weather, attractive home values, and a burgeoning tech scene pulled in millions of Americans looking to sample the country’s less densely packed locales.
The Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown region of Texas saw the second-largest jump in population between 2010 and 2020 among America’s 384 metro areas, according to Census data published in August. The greater Dallas, Phoenix, and Denver areas also experienced outstanding growth. And as moving Americans faced affordability pressures, areas on the urban fringe flourished.
The ten-year boom drove southwestern home prices sharply higher. Yet the pandemic sparked a new rally for the area. And as masses of Americans swarmed to the southwest, several places reaped rewards.
Here are the cities and towns that won out from the southwestern migration.
1. The pre-pandemic boomtowns
For several southwestern metros, the pandemic only extended a decade of strong population growth and booming industry.
Cities including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Austin, Dallas, and Houston saw massive growth during the crisis as people fled coastal employment hubs for better value and warmer weather. All five cities enjoyed net move-ins from March 2020 to June 2021, according to USPS mail forwarding data collected by Jefferies.
The urban centers’ appeal wasn’t dented by COVID, and several pre-pandemic movers see the influx of new residents as a major boon.
“A lot of people are super new and in the same boat as you. They’re trying to figure out the city, try new things, and make new friends, and set up a life here,” Julie VerHage-Greenberg, a co-founder of Fintech Today who moved from New York to Austin with her husband in April, said. “That makes it much easier to be doing the same thing.”
The major hubs’ years of development also made them perfect for the work-from-home zeitgeist, Ali Wolf, chief economist at housing analytics firm Zonda, told Insider. Once solely relegated to Silicon Valley, the tech sector now has nascent hubs in Phoenix, Austin, and Dallas.
“If you had individuals leave the Bay Area or Seattle who now getting called back to their jobs, they may be able to quit and stay in Austin. That’s important, to allow people some economic freedom,” Wolf said.
2. The COVID-era migration magnets
Some southwestern cities didn’t experience the same booms through the 2010s as others. That lack of a boomtown reputation, however, paid dividends during the pandemic.
Cities including San Antonio and Tuscon became “migration magnets” during lockdown by attracting a healthy mix of out-of-state migrators and in-state movers, Wolf said. These cities offered more affordable housing than many peers, and their urban environments drew Americans still looking to avoid suburban and rural areas.
“San Antonio is becoming a spillover and a more affordable alternative for individuals within the state who are looking to move,” Wolf added.
3. The exurbs
Yet not all southwestern transplants could afford densely packed cities or their glitzy suburbs. Cue the exurbs.
Exurban areas thrived during the pandemic. The locales combine affordable housing, greater space, and still-manageable commute times to urban centers. Exurbs had long been neglected for their distance from cities and lack of development, but the shift to remote work saw city-dwellers flock to the areas.
Think cities like Goodyear or Buckeye, AZ, towns located about 20 and 36 miles from Phoenix, respectively. Both were long overshadowed by their metropolitan neighbor to the east. But as their popularity balloons, developers and movers alike see promise in the long-neglected areas.
Merging the southwestern boom with the exurban shift explains why so many moved to the not-quite-rural, not-quite-suburban areas, Wolf said. Whether from locals priced out of their cities or out-of-towners seeking more value, the region’s exurbs saw huge appreciation, she added.
“Those areas lost popularity during the housing bust and they’re becoming attractive again,” she added. “A lot of homebuilders believe that this time is different for those areas because of work-from-home and because of the increased migration.”
Krikor Jansezian had wanted to leave Claremont for a while.
But it was the chaos of the pandemic that finally pushed the 50-year-old hospital executive to make the 1,200-mile move to Billings, Montana, with his family, in search of a quieter, more affordable life.
“I wanted to stay healthy and get healthier, especially in light of the pandemic,” Jansezian told Insider. “And that comes in the form of less stress in your outside-of-work environment.”
After 43 years in California, Jansezian said bought his $719,000 four-bedroom new-build house after only a FaceTime tour with the realtor as there were so few homes on the market.
“The first time I walked through the house was in March, and I was already in escrow,” Jansezian said. “And it didn’t matter, because it was a beautiful home.”
“For $719,000 in California, you can maybe get a one-bedroom condo,” he added.
Jansezian said that he and his wife had “zero” connection to the 109,000-person city before they moved, but were attracted to its slower pace of life, cheaper cost of living, and close proximity to areas of natural beauty, including Yellowstone National Park.
“I don’t know if I can get this in California,” he said.
In July, Billings topped The Wall Street Journal’s Emerging Housing Markets Index, a rank of the areas where homebuyers can expect both a strong return on their investment, and a high quality of life.
Billings placed first thanks to its hot housing market, affordable properties, and relatively low unemployment rate, The Journal said. Deb Parker, owner of Parker & Co. Real Estate Services, told The Journal that many buyers were coming from out of state.
Jansezian said he already knew of one couple who had moved from Los Angeles to Billings this year to work in his hospital.
“For someone moving from an expensive market, the offerings here are incredibly attractive,” he said.
Jansezian has three children, two of whom are in college, and one a high school freshman. In Montana, he estimates that his utility bills and car insurance cost about half of what he paid back in Claremont.
“Stretch that out over 12 months and you just paid for significant schooling, college-aged kids, private school, fun, entertainment, travel,” he said. “You’re getting some money back, and you’re getting your quality of life back.”
For Jansezian, Montana’s largest city offered the bustle of a “big vibrant town,” as well as ski resorts, hiking trails, rivers, and lakes – and an end to his grinding two-hour round commute.
“You reflect on your ageing body, 50 years old and two hours sitting in the car. And you pull into your driveway and you just feel depleted, no energy,” he said.
Now, Jansezian travels less than 15 minutes each way to get to work.
However, there are some aspects of Californian life that Jansezian misses: There are fewer restaurant options and his family has to shop more online, he said. Wine, too, is more limited.
“Some of the wine clubs from California don’t ship to Montana. That’s a big bummer when you need your wine,” he said. “So you have to go and adapt and get the wines that come here.”
But the Billings hospitality? That’s readily available.
“You can be at a restaurant, and people strike up conversation,” Jansezian said. “Just casual and comfortable, warm, inviting.”
“It’s the kindest community I’ve ever been in,” he added.
Still, moving to Billings has required some adjustments.
“I told my wife, don’t honk the horn’. Nobody honks. Even if you miss the red light and it turns green and you’re sitting there for another five seconds,” Jansezian said. “It’s very strange.”