Relocation Hot Spots

We take a look at the cities, suburbs, and up-and-coming locales that draw the most relocating homebuyers.

July 1, 2005

What are the hottest cities for relocations? To answer that question, we look to RELO, a vast network of independent residential real estate firms that tracks relocations. On the top 10 list, we find cities like Chicago, where big corporations are based; warm and sunny spots like Jupiter, Fla.; and affordable locales like Charlotte, N.C.

People relocating to the most popular cities include corporate-sponsored transferees, second-home buyers, retirees, and those who can work virtually from anywhere and are focused solely on lifestyle, according to RELO.

"Therefore, the popularity of these cities is due to many factors, including affordability, amenities, schools, job market, technology infrastructure, accessibility, and other attractions," says Pamela O'Connor, CEO of RELO.

The Top 10 List

Here are the most popular relocation destinations, based on broker-to-broker referrals sent through RELO's network of 4,700 offices and 110,000 sales associates, which handled more than 50,000 relocations in 2004:

  1. Washington, D.C. It’s no surprise that the seat of U.S. government tops the list, as government is transient by nature. The White House itself turns over every four or eight years. Also, the city is home to three Fortune 500 companies. Housing is pricey at $412,965 for an average home, and the cost-of-living index is at 147, higher than the U.S. average of 100.
  2. Jupiter, Fla. This city surprised some by landing so high on the list, but RELO says it’s an appealing spot because it still offers affordable housing in Palm Beach County, has a warm and sunny climate, and provides many types of recreational amenities.
  3. Atlanta. Here you’ll find an attractive quality of life and expanding Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola. The average home is $314,353, and the cost-of-living index is 109. Another plus? Ladies Home Journal has rated Atlanta 34 out of 200 as one of the best cities for women.
  4. Chicago. The Windy City attracts a large number of new residents in spite of long commutes and cold winters. Part of the draw is the 11 Fortune 500 firms headquartered in or around the city. A typical home is on the expensive side, at $354,006.
  5. Dallas. With seven Fortune 500 companies, Dallas is a more affordable metropolis where a typical home runs $253,485, and the cost-of-living index is 103.
  6. Raleigh, N.C. The average home price is $259,703, the cost-of-living index is 103, and there is one Fortune 500 firm. The area is an educational hub with several highly-regarded learning institutions.
  7. Charlotte, N.C. With a cost-of-living index of 101, Charlotte is home to seven Fortune 500 firms and is becoming the banking capital of the country. A typical home is $264,621.
  8. Houston. This is the “bargain” city on the list. A typical home is $289,810, and there are a whopping 17 Fortune 500 firms that spur relocation activity.
  9. Tampa, Fla. Warm climates and affordable corporate-level homes are a draw, but the average home price may be going up with the announcement of Donald Trump's 52-story luxury condominium tower, with units priced from $700,000 to more $6 million.
  10. New York City. Transferees to the Big Apple likely require a hefty cost-of-living supplement, since a typical home is $851,937 and the cost-of-living index is 233!

"Our numbers are a good cross section of all moves," says O'Connor. "It's a retail look at the market."

Don’t Forget About the ’Burbs

"One can't talk about company relocations without looking at the ever-expanding suburbs, where home prices rise as fast as people arrive," O'Connor says.

In step with Washington, D.C., its urban hub, Fairfax, Va., leads all U.S. suburbs in terms of relocation activity. Fairfax is followed by Longwood, Fla.; Parsippany, N.J.; Bothell, Wash.; and Overland Park, Kan.

Longwood is a northern suburb of Orlando with good transportation access, affordable homes, and many nearby lakes. Parsippany, home to many corporate office parks, reflects the growth of the New Jersey suburbs post-9/11. Bothell is a Seattle suburb fueled by the growth in the tech sector, and Overland Park, in suburban Kansas City, continues to be a crossroads for affordable homes, good family values, and a charming boutique shopping area, O'Connor says.

Top 5 Up-and-Coming Cities

Beyond the top 10 most popular relocation cities, there are a handful of other, increasingly popular locations that deserve mention. "An executive looking for value can find a nice quality of life in one of the up-and-coming relocation cities," O'Connor says.

  1. Greensboro, N.C. A typical corporate-level home in this city goes for $227,935, the cost-of-living index is 99, and there are two Fortune 500 firms.
  2. Wichita, Kan. Here, the same home is $183,418 and taxes are the 29th lowest of U.S. cities.
  3. Grand Rapids, Mich. With two Fortune 500 companies, a typical home costs $176,564.
  4. Virginia Beach, Va. Taxes are the ninth lowest in the country, a home costs an average of $257,298, and the cost-of-living index is 108.
  5. Albuquerque, N.M. Home to Sun Healthcare, a typical house in this city is $189,197.

California Didn’t Make the Cut

It comes as no surprise that none of the cities in California make either of these lists.

"Employees who job hunt in California get sticker shock really fast," said Arden Hjelm, a RELO® relocation specialist and vice president of Young, REALTORS®, in Westlake Village, Calif., 50 miles north of Los Angeles. "The average sale price of a home here is $650,000. $400,000 will buy you an 800-square-foot pad."

(c) Copyright 2005 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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