The Richest Cities Where No One Wants to Move

February 3, 2012 by Douglas A. McIntyre

Source: Flickr, Images of Money
Many Americans still are holding off on buying homes in some of the country’s most expensive cities. While home prices fell 23% on average in the largest cities since the housing crisis began, for many home buyers the drop was not enough. Based on a new report released by Trulia, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 metropolitan areas to which no one wants to move.

Read: The American Cities Where No One Wants to Move

Trulia ranked the 100 largest metropolitan areas by their Metro Movers ratio, which measures homebuyer activity and interest metropolitan areas. The ratio compares the number of online searches of local residents looking to buy elsewhere to the number of out-of-town homebuyers looking for real estate in the area. According to the report, a ratio of two means that there are twice as many home searches by people looking to leave the area as to move in. All of the cites no one wants to move to have a ratio higher than two.

The cities that attract few buyers experienced modest home price declines since the recession began, especially relative to their high home value. As a result, home prices in these areas are forecast to decline further, and homebuyers are waiting until they do. All of the 10 cities no one wants to move to have among the most expensive homes in the country. Newark and Bethesda, two cities with twice as many people looking to leave as looking to move in, have among the top 10 highest median home values in the country. Home prices in these cities declined at just the national average, and next year, they are projected to decline more.

People want to move to cities that are much more affordable. According to Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist, “Most of the cities attracting lots of search activity from outsiders had huge price declines during the housing bust. They’re now much more affordable than they were during the boom — especially to people in cities where prices are still high.” As a result, buyers are now interested. “Baby boomers thinking about retirement see Florida as a much better deal than it was a few years ago,” Kolko says.

People do not want to move to cities that are largely older and more densely populated. Regions in the northeast that are of little interest to out-of-town buyers include Philly, Newark and New Haven. Other older metropolitan areas include San Jose and Seattle. Kolko suggests the move away from urban areas has a lot to do with expense. “Even though people often say they want to live in urban neighborhoods where they can walk more and drive less, they get more for their buck where the car is king. Most long-distance searches are toward smaller, suburban, more sprawling areas, not toward the older, dense cities of the northeast.”

24/7 Wall St. reviewed Trulia’s Metro Movers Report to identify the 10 metro regions where there are more than two searches by residents looking for homes elsewhere for every one person not from the region looking to move to the city. To reflect additional housing and economic conditions in the region, we included data from the recently published Q3 2011 home price forecasts, as provided by Fiserv-Case Shiller. We also included median home prices, decline in prices from prerecession peaks, unemployment rate from November, 2011, and projected home prices through 2016.

10. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa
> Metro movers ratio: 2.04
> Median home price: $138,000
> Home value decline from peak: -2.8%
> Unemployment: 4.7%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: +1.5%

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan region is relatively stable and economically healthy. It is surprising then that relatively few people want to move to the area compared to the number of people looking to leave. For every person — from outside the region — inquiring about real estate within the region, there are two people within the region searching for homes elsewhere. With home prices in the area falling only 2.8% since their peak, home buyers have little incentive to search in the Omaha region. However, Fiserv-Case Shiller projects home prices to rise 1.5% between third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2012, which is in the top third of increases among major metro regions.

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9. Camden, N.J.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.11
> Median home price: $180,000
> Home value decline from peak: -24.7%
> Unemployment: 9.5%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -3.3%

From its peak at the end of 2007, home prices have declined by nearly 25% in the metro region of Camden. The region borders Pennsylvania and is directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. While it is not in the top tier for expensive properties, it is still well above average, with a median home value of $180,000 as of the third quarter of last year. Prices are expected to drop 3.3% between the third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2012. However, they will then increase 4.6% per year through 2016.

8. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.11
> Median home price: $350,000
> Home value decline from peak: -29.2%
> Unemployment: 8.2%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: +0.1%

The November unemployment rate in Seattle was 8.2%, below the national average of 8.7%. Home prices in the area declined substantially — nearly 30% from their peak — during the recession, but are still quite high. The median home value in the Seattle region is $350,000, the 15th highest rate in the country. According to Fiserv-Case Shiller, home values are projected to stay steady over the next year, but between the third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2012, prices are expected to jump nearly 10% in the Seattle area.

7. Baltimore-Towson, Md.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.17
> Median home price: $258,000
> Home value decline from peak: -22.3
> Unemployment: 7.2%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -0.8%

While some areas of the city of Baltimore continue to suffer from unemployment and slow economic growth, the metropolitan area as a whole is actually doing relatively well. The metro region’s unemployment rate is just 7.2%, well below the national average of 8.7%. And median family income is $81,900, the 25th highest in the country. Meanwhile, median home price in the region is $285,000, the 28th highest in the country. Fiserv-Case Shiller projects that home prices will decline slightly through the third quarter of next year, but then will increase at an annual rate of nearly 5% through 2016, keeping home prices high for quite some time.

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6. New Haven-Milford, Conn.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.21
> Median home price: $220,000
> Home value decline from peak: -21.1%
> Unemployment: 9.2%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -1.6%

The unemployment rate in the New Haven-Milford metropolitan region of Connecticut was 9.2% in November — among the highest in the country. Yet median family income in the third quarter of last year also was relatively high at $74,800. Median home value at the same time was $220,000. According to Fiserv-Case Shiller, families spend nearly a quarter of their monthly income on mortgage payments per month. Home prices in the area are projected to drop 1.6% through the third quarter of 2012, but are projected to increase at a rate of 5.3% per year through 2016.

5. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.25
> Median home price: $700,000
> Home value decline from peak: -28.9%
> Unemployment: 5.4%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -5.6%

The suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C., are some of the most affluent in the country. Bethesda is no exception. According Zillow, median home prices in the region are nearly $700,000, making it one of the most expensive real estate markets in the U.S. During the recession, home values declined nearly 29%, which is quite a drop in value but not nearly as much as many other large cities. Home prices in the Bethesda region are projected to drop another 5.6% over the next year.

4. Philadelphia, Penn.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.4
> Median home price: $265,000
> Home value decline from peak: -12.9%
> Unemployment: 8.2%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -1.7%

Median home prices in the Philadelphia region are the 27th highest in the country at $265,000. Additionally, home prices did not fall very much from their peak — at least relative to the rest of the country. This may be preventing the city from attracting enough new residents to keep its population numbers up.

3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.54
> Median home price: $390,000
> Home value decline from peak: -27.7%
> Unemployment: 6.0%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -3.3%

The median home price in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan region is the 12th highest in the country. Median family income is also exceptionally high at $102,300 — the second highest in the country. While home values decreased 27.7% from their peak in the area, this is a relatively small amount compared to other large metros such as Phoenix and Riverside, where home prices dropped more than 56%.

2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
> Metro movers ratio: 2.6
> Median home price: $546,000
> Home value decline from peak: -32.5%
> Unemployment: 9.8%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -3.8%

The median home price in the metropolitan region of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara is $546,000, the third highest in the country. The median family income is the fourth highest in the country. Home prices may simply too high for many people. The median mortgage payment at the peak of home prices as a percentage of median monthly family income was 46%. This is one of the highest rates in the country, reflecting the exceptionally large burden home prices place on residents in the area.

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1. Newark-Union, N.J.-Penn.
> Metro movers ratio: 3.65
> Median home price: $400,000
> Home value decline from peak: -24.7%
> Unemployment: 8.9%
> Forecast change in home price through 3Q 2012: -4.8%

Newark home values were among the first to peak, hitting their highest point in the first quarter of 2006. Since that time, prices have fallen modestly, which has kept home prices high. The median home price in the region of $400,000 is currently the tenth highest in the country. The bleeding out of residents may stop in the coming year as home prices are predicted to drop 4.8% through the third quarter of 2012.

-Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter