After three straight months of price increases, the May 2012 Trulia Price Monitor showed no change in asking prices from April. But, at the same time, rent increases keep accelerating.
Each month we publish the Trulia Price Monitor and Trulia Rent Monitor, which are the earliest leading indicators of how asking prices and rents are trending nationally and locally, adjusted for the mix of listed homes and seasonal factors. Here’s the scoop on how prices and rents did in May.
After Three Months of Increases, Asking Prices Flat in May
Asking prices on for-sale homes were unchanged in May month over month, seasonally adjusted. Because prices rose in February, March and April, prices remain 1.6% higher in May than one quarter ago, and most of the country has seen price increases: 86 of the 100 largest metro areas had quarter-over-quarter price increases in May, seasonally adjusted.
May 2012 Trulia Price Monitor Summary
|% change in asking prices||# of 100 largest metros with asking-price increases||% change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures|
|Month-over-month, seasonally adjusted||0.0%||(not reported)||0.4%|
|Quarter-over-quarter, seasonally adjusted||1.6%||86||2.1%|
Trulia’s Spring 2012 Metro Movers report takes a deep dive into why people are searching for homes where they do.
Every three months or so, we take a close look at the home searches on Trulia: where are the searchers, and where are the homes they’re looking at? This time around we’re taking a close look at why people search where they do, and we’ve uncovered these two facts:
—- Most short-distance searches (under 100 miles away) are toward the suburbs or smaller cities.
—- Long-distance searches (more than 500 miles away) are toward more affordable markets with worse job prospects.
People want sprawl and don’t care about jobs? Of course, it’s not quite that simple – but there’s more than a grain of truth in that statement. Let’s start with the short-distance searches and move to the long-distance searches.
Staying Close, But In Need Of More Elbow Room
Over the past year (April 2011-March 2012), 44% of all the searches on Trulia were within a metro area, and 56% were to another metro area (not including searches from outside the U.S.). Of these “cross-metro” searches, roughly one-third were “short-distance” (less than 100 miles away), one-third were “middle-distance” (100 to 500 miles away), and one-third were “long-distance (more than 500 miles away). The top 10 searches were all short-distance searches, with more people looking from Los Angeles to Riverside-San Bernardino than between any other pair of metros. Of these 10, seven are from bigger to smaller metros (e.g., Dallas to Fort Worth) or from a dense urban metro to its suburbs (e.g., New York to Long Island). Here’s the list.
|Table 1: Top 10 Home Searches|
|#||Origin Metro||Destination Metro|
|1||Los Angeles, CA||Riverside-San Bernardino, CA|
|2||New York, NY-NJ||Long Island, NY|
|3||Orange County, CA||Los Angeles, CA|
|4||Dallas, TX||Fort Worth, TX|
|5||Los Angeles, CA||Orange County, CA|
|6||Detroit, MI||Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI|
|7||New York, NY-NJ||Newark, NJ-PA|
|8||Newark, NJ-PA||New York, NY-NJ|
|9||Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI||Detroit, MI|
|10||Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV||Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD|
Note: all of these top 10 searches overall happen to be short-distance searches.
Neighboring metros share many of the same features: they tend to have the same weather, for instance. But nearby metros can differ a lot in other ways. House hunters searching within 100 miles are twice as likely to look at more suburban or smaller markets, where neighborhoods typically consist of single-family homes with yards, than at more urban or larger markets where homes are smaller and more likely to be apartments or condos (measured by density). Suburban and smaller-city markets also tend to have had bigger price drops during the housing crash and lower-cost housing now. However, these places still attract more home searches even when they are just as expensive as nearby urban markets. More than twice as many searches are from crowded Los Angeles to suburban Ventura County than in the reverse direction, even though homes are just as expensive and the housing bust was similarly severe; same with Boston and Cape Cod, and New York and Fairfield County CT.
Clearly, house hunters face a dilemma. On the one hand, people tell us they want the benefits of city living: nearby shops and restaurants, public transit and a shorter commute. But when it comes to searching for homes, they’re more likely to sacrifice these amenities in favor of more space. That’s not just because people love sprawl: many government policies, like interstate highway investments and strict regulations on urban development, encourage faster growth in lower-density areas. When people look from dense cities to sprawling suburbs, it’s partly because that’s where the homes are available at the price they can afford. In the future, people could start looking more toward big cities if baby boomers want to leave the suburbs; if rising gas prices make commuting from the suburbs too expensive; or if government policies become less biased against cities. But for now, people still have their eye on the ‘burbs.
The top middle-distance searches (table 2) include lots of rival city pairs: Dallas and Houston, Washington DC and New York, and so on. Eight out of the top 10 middle-distance searches are in the Sunbelt states – nine if you count Oklahoma. What explains these middle-distance searches? Lower density is still the main draw, as well bigger price declines.
|Table 2: Top 10 Middle-Distance Home Searches|
|#||Origin Metro||Destination Metro|
|1||Oklahoma City, OK||Tulsa, OK|
|2||Los Angeles, CA||San Diego, CA|
|3||Houston, TX||San Antonio, TX|
|4||Houston, TX||Austin, TX|
|5||Tucson, AZ||Phoenix, AZ|
|6||Los Angeles, CA||Las Vegas, NV|
|7||Phoenix, AZ||Tucson, AZ|
|8||Dallas, TX||Houston, TX|
|9||Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV||New York, NY-NJ|
|10||Los Angeles, CA||Phoenix, AZ|
Note: “middle-distance” searches are 100-to-500 miles away.
Going the Distance for Bargains and Warm Winters, But Not Jobs
Long-distance searches are where the really interesting story lies. These searches for homes 500 miles or more away account for 20% of all searches on our site. Of these long-distance searches, 54% are toward the west and 62% are toward the south, thanks in part to all those New Yorkers looking at homes in Florida (table 3). Los Angeles to New York is the only eastbound or northbound search on the list. The top long-distance searches look really different from the top short- and middle-distance searches – and it turns out that people searching for a home near where they currently live are looking for something very different than people looking to move far, far away.
|Table 3: Top 10 Long-Distance Home Searches|
|#||Origin Metro||Destination Metro|
|1||New York, NY-NJ||Los Angeles, CA|
|2||New York, NY-NJ||Miami, FL|
|3||New York, NY-NJ||West Palm Beach, FL|
|4||New York, NY-NJ||Atlanta, GA|
|5||Chicago, IL||Phoenix, AZ|
|6||New York, NY-NJ||Orlando, FL|
|7||New York, NY-NJ||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|8||New York, NY-NJ||Tampa-Saint Petersburg, FL|
|9||Los Angeles, CA||New York, NY-NJ|
|10||New York, NY-NJ||Chicago, IL|
Note: “long-distance” searches are more than 500 miles away.
A long-distance search is very different from a short-distance search: if you’re open to moving anywhere in the US, you’ve got a huge diversity of places to choose from: sunny, snowy, mountainous, coastal, booming, affordable, old, new and so on.
Affordability matters a lot for long-distance searchers, who are 1.7 times more likely to look for homes in markets with bigger price drops in the bust, relative to where they live now, than in markets that held up better. They’re also 1.4 times more likely to look for homes in markets with a lower price-per-square-foot, relative to where they live now, than in more expensive markets. Long-distance searchers also factor in weather: people are 1.8 times more likely to look for homes in markets with warmer winters than in markets with colder winters, relative to where they live now. Density matters less for long-distance searchers – most people don’t need to move across the country just to find more space.
Here’s the surprise. You’d think that people would search where jobs are plentiful, but you’d be wrong. Most long-distance searchers look for homes in markets with higher unemployment and slower job growth than where they live now. For instance, seven times as many people in Washington DC (5.9 percent unemployment) looked for homes in Orlando (10.3 percent unemployment) than in the reverse direction. Here are other searches where twice as many people searched from the lower-unemployment market to the higher-unemployment market than in the reverse direction:
|Table 4: Searches Toward Higher-Unemployment Metros|
|#||Origin Metro (Lower Unemployment)||Destination Metro (Higher Unemployment)|
|1||Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV||Atlanta, GA|
|2||Cleveland, OH||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL|
|3||Seattle, WA||Detroit, MI|
|4||Oakland, CA||Las Vegas, NV|
|5||Philadelphia, PA||Los Angeles, CA|
|6||Boston, MA||Orlando, FL|
|7||Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN-WI||Phoenix, AZ|
|8||Chicago, IL||Riverside-San Bernardino, CA|
|9||Baltimore, MD||Tampa-Saint Petersburg, FL|
|10||Long Island, NY||Tampa-Saint Petersburg, FL|
Note: listed in alphabetical order of destination metro. Each pair has at least twice as many searches toward the destination metro than in the reverse direction, and the destination metro has an unemployment rate at least two points higher than the origin metro. Unemployment rate is averaged over 2011 plus first two months of 2012.
People aren’t masochists: they’re not looking to move in order to be unemployed. Rather, they are looking primarily for affordable, warm locations, and those locations happen to have much higher unemployment rates than other markets do. The relationship between affordability–as measured by home price declines during the bust–and unemployment is especially strong: markets like Las Vegas and Bakersfield may have great bargains, but those price drops went hand-in-hand with job losses and high unemployment. This is true overall: the bigger the price drop, the higher the unemployment rate. And, as a general rule, metros with more inbound searches had bigger price drops and have higher unemployment than those with more outbound searches.
Not every search, of course, is by someone who is about to move and will need a job. Retirees, investors and people just looking for fun might not care about the unemployment rate in markets where they’re searching for homes. But the rest of us probably need a job wherever we’re moving. Few metros have bargains (big price drops) AND a low unemployment rate. Phoenix, Tucson and Fort Lauderdale almost fit the bill: they saw big price drops yet unemployment remains lower than other metros where prices plummeted.
Bottom line: if you’re making a big move and looking at markets across the country, don’t ignore the job market. Unless you’re retired, buying an investment property, or are expecting to live off your Facebook shares, remember that markets with great housing deals tend to have higher unemployment. If you still have to work for a living, you should know what the job market looks like before you plan your next move.
Editor’s note: discussion of metros with large price drops from peak revised 5/24/12.0 comments
Originally published in The Atlantic Cities on May 4, 2012.
Construction activity came to a near-halt after the housing bubble burst. The number of new residential units authorized in 2009, 2010, and 2011 was less than one-third of the level during the boom. In 2011, construction activity picked up slightly from 2009 and 2010, as the housing recovery began, with permits for new multifamily buildings leading the construction recovery. Multifamily construction has increased because rental demand rose during the recession as people chose not to – or were unable to – buy or keep their homes. Just this past year, rents rose 5.6 percent nationally according to the Trulia Rent Monitor, and that encourages builders to construct new multifamily buildings.
As always, housing is local. Construction is gearing up in some markets and remains dormant in others. These patterns are critical for understanding the future of cities, for two reasons.
First: construction activity is a bet on future growth. Developers will build only in areas where they expect housing demand in the future. Of course they can bet wrong, and that’s what happened during the housing bubble; construction in many metros far exceeded housing demand, and lots of newly built homes were (and still are) vacant. Still, construction is a clear signal of builder confidence in an area.
Second: construction shapes urban form. Housing units live a long time and are rarely destroyed, so new construction has a long-term impact on density and sprawl. The primary tool that officials have to affect density, sprawl and urban form is deciding what type of new construction, if any, to allow in different communities.
What do construction patterns say about the future of cities in America? This week the U.S. Census Bureau released data on construction permits issued by localities in 2011, including whether those permits were for single-family homes or units in multi-family buildings.
Metros with the Most Construction Permits
|Metro||Construction permits, 2011||Percent of permitted units in
multi-family buildings, 2011
|Houston, TX||31,271||27 percent|
|Dallas, TX||18,686||49 percent|
|Washington, DC||16,501||51 percent|
|New York, NY||13,973||91 percent|
|Austin, TX||10,239||39 percent|
|Los Angeles, CA||9,895||77 percent|
|Phoenix, AZ||9,081||20 percent|
|Seattle, WA||8,664||47 percent|
|Atlanta, GA||8,634||28 percent|
|San Antonio, TX||7,127||38 percent|
More permits were issued in the Houston metro area than in any other metro, by far. Four of the top ten metros were in Texas. But this list is dominated by large metro areas, and we’d expect bigger areas to have more construction activity. Looking instead at the number of permits issued per 1,000 existing housing units shows the impact of construction on metro areas relative to their size. Here are the top and bottom ten metro areas by construction activity, among the largest 100 metro areas:
Most Construction Activity
|Metro||Construction permits per 1000
housing units, 2011
|El Paso, TX||15.36|
|Little Rock, AR||10.53|
|Baton Rouge, LA||9.51|
Least Construction Activity
|Metro||Construction permits per 1000
housing units, 2011
|Long Island, NY||1.65|
|New Haven, CT||1.90|
|Ventura County, CA||2.02|
The rate of construction is highest in metros within Texas and the Carolinas and lowest in the Northeast and Midwest. The map shows the pattern across America. The rate of construction is higher across the Texas, the mid-South and Mountain states, but lower in New England, the Great Lakes, South Florida and most of coastal California.
Two factors stand out to explain which areas have the most construction. The first is long-term employment growth, which is the best guide to future housing demand. The second is smaller recent price declines: metros where prices fell less during the bust had less overbuilding and are therefore ready to absorb new housing. Among the ten metros with the highest rate of construction, all had above-average job growth over the past ten years, and none had experienced the huge home price declines that the hardest-hit areas did during the crash. Builders and developers are betting on metros with solid histories of job growth that escaped the worst of the housing crisis.
What does construction activity mean for urban form? The mix of single-family versus multi-family permits is a strong guide. Multifamily construction is higher density than single-family construction, and single-family construction is more sprawling. For the U.S. overall, one-third of the construction permits in 2011 were for multi-family units. But the multi-family share ranged widely among the largest metros, from 91 percent of permits issues in the New York metro and 86 percent in San Francisco all the way down to 2 percent in Dayton, OH, and 3 percent in Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL. In Houston, where more permits were issued in 2011 than anywhere else, just 27 percent were for multi-family units. But not all of Texas is sprawling: in Dallas, 49 percent of permits were in multi-family units, well above the national average. In Los Angeles – which used to be the poster-child for sprawl – 77 percent of new permits were for multifamily units. Among the top permit-issuing places, Phoenix has the lowest share of multi-family permits at 20 percent, along with Houston (27 percent) and Atlanta (28 percent).
The future of sprawl, therefore, is not California. Houston, Phoenix, and Atlanta are America’s current capitals of low-density construction. Builders are betting on future growth in the South, in Texas, and in the Southwest, and they’re building single-family homes to meet that demand.
The jobs picture keeps getting better for 25-34 year-olds, and construction employment kept pace with solid overall employment growth.
The February 2012 jobs report, released this morning, was once again very strong for housing. First, the jobs picture keeps getting better for 25-34 year-olds. Second, construction employment kept pace with solid overall employment growth.
Unemployment among 25-34 year-olds
Why does this indicator matter for housing?
Between the ages of 25 and 34 is prime time when many people form households with a spouse, partner, roommate, or by themselves, then start families and buy their first home. During and after the recession, household formation dropped for this age group, and more of them than ever were living with parents or other adults rather than renting or owning their own place. These folks will wait to form their own households and consider homeownership only when their job prospects improve. A key measure for housing demand and homeownership is the unemployment rate for this group and the share of this age group that is employed.
What happened this month?
In February, the unemployment rate for 25-34 year-olds dropped to 8.7% from 9.0% in January and is at its lowest level in three years. The unemployment rate for all adults stayed steady at 8.3%. The recession hit this age group especially hard: their unemployment rate peaked at 10.6%, compared to 10.0% for all adults, but this gap is now closing. In February, 74.7% of 25-34 year-olds were employed (the rest were unemployed or not in the labor force because they’re in school, discouraged from looking or not looking for other reasons), up from 73.9% a year ago, but still way below the normal level of almost 80%.
Trulia's Chief Economist Jed Kolko takes a deeper dive into the BLS' most recent employment projections to see where jobs will be in 10 years.
On February 1, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its employment projections through 2020. Despite President Obama’s vision in his State of the Union speech of “an economy built on manufacturing,” the BLS predicts U.S. manufacturing employment will decline over the course of the decade even as the overall economy grows.
More specifically, manufacturing’s share of jobs will drop from 8.1 percent in 2010 to 7.0 percent in 2020.
Professional services, health care, and education are the broad sectors predicted to grow the fastest, along with a rebounding construction industry. Within those sectors, the fastest growing will be home health care services, individual and family health care services, and management/scientific/technical consulting services. Apparel and leather manufacturing will shrink the most.
What does this mean for individual U.S. metro areas? Although the BLS makes predictions for the nation, industry growth shapes local economies. If manufacturing jobs continue their long decline, cities that depend on manufacturing will continue to suffer more than others.
Most metro areas’ economies are skewed toward some industries and away from others. Los Angeles has movies, New York has finance, and Detroit has cars. Let’s say that the BLS is spot-on and each narrow industry grows just as fast until 2020 as they predict. The metro areas that should grow fastest will then be those where fast-growing industries are concentrated. Among the largest 100 metro areas, the big winner would be the Washington, D.C. area, thanks to its large share of professional services jobs. (Note that this analysis considers only private-sector employment predictions.)
At the other extreme, Greensboro, North Carolina, and other manufacturing centers in the South and Midwest would grow slowest between 2010 and 2020.
Below then is the BLS’s list of the top 10 U.S. metro areas (out of the top 100 largest metros) for projected job growth:
1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
2. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD
3. Colorado Springs, CO
4. New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ
5. El Paso, TX
6. Springfield, MA
7. Baton Rouge, LA
8. Tacoma, WA
9. Baltimore-Towson, MD
10. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
And the bottom ten metros (the first metro listed is projected to have the slowest growth):
1. Greensboro-High Point, NC
2. Gary, IN
3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
4. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI
5. Columbia, SC
6. Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI
7. Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN
8. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
9. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
10. Salt Lake City, UT
What is Los Angeles doing on the bottom 10 list? It’s dragged down by the expected carnage in apparel manufacturing and a projected small decline in movie industry employment.
The map below shows the predicted job growth for the largest 200 metros. The dark blue metros include Washington, D.C. and others with the highest expected job growth based on the industry projections. The mid-Atlantic states, Massachusetts, Florida and parts of Texas and the West all have metros where faster-growing industries are concentrated. The Midwest and the South, where manufacturing is concentrated, would have the slowest growth.
The good news for the metros on the bottom end of the BLS projections is that industry mix is not necessarily destiny. Looking back at the last decade (2000-2009), industry mix is a good but far from perfect predictor of actual metro job growth. Some metros do better than industry mix alone predicts, and some do worse.
New Orleans, for instance, had much slower job growth last decade than its industry mix would predict, thanks to Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. But metro performance often follows more predictable patterns. Even after taking industry mix into account, metros grew faster last decade if they had a milder, drier climate; a more educated workforce; and lower population density. A mild, dry climate attracts workers, which in turn draws businesses; a more educated workforce raises local productivity; and lower population density generally reflects a lower cost-of-living, including cheaper housing. (Density turns out to be a better predictor of job growth, statistically speaking, than housing prices. As the world has painfully learned, housing prices can fluctuate wildly, so housing prices at any one time might not be a great indicator of local costs over the long run. Density, in contrast, is fairly constant over time.)
The effect of climate and education on local growth should be no surprise – lots of academic and popular research has examined these and other factors. And even though unique and unpredictable events are, um, unpredictable, it’s a safe bet that metros with a nice climate and educated workforce will continue to outperform.
The effect of density might be a surprise. We know that density raises productivity and wage growth, and policies that limit density can stifle growth. Nonetheless, high-density places have slower job growth because high density comes with high real estate prices, which push many businesses and households elsewhere. Keep in mind, too, that high-density places tend to have both higher educational attainment and a more favorable industry mix (more professional services, less manufacturing) – so high density often goes hand-in-hand with factors that boost job growth. Still, holding all other factors equal, the data clearly show that high density places have slower job growth.
Combining the industry employment predictions with climate, education, and density gives us the full view of where the jobs will be in 2020*. Good climate and low density gives the South and Southwest a boost and knocks some big Northeast cities down. The 10 fastest and slowest job growth metros this decade now look like this:
|Top 10 Metros||Bottom 10 Metros|
|Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ||Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI|
|Tucson, AZ||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI|
|El Paso, TX||Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH|
|Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY|
|Colorado Springs, CO||Gary, IN|
|Albuquerque, NM||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA|
|Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX||Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI|
|Bakersfield-Delano, CA||Syracuse, NY|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA|
|Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA||New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ|
Note: Top and bottom 10 out of 100 largest metros. The first metro listed on the bottom-10 list is projected to have the slowest growth of all 100 largest metros.
Southwestern metros now dominate the fastest-growth list, led by Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso. The slow-growth club is all Northeast and Midwest, plus Los Angeles. Mild climate and low density mean that southern metros like Greensboro, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina, should grow faster than their unfavorable industry mix suggests, so they’re off the bottom-10 list when all factors are included.
The map below shows that employment growth will be fastest in the Southwest, Texas and parts of Florida and California. The South looks more blue than before, while the Northeast and Midwest are pretty solidly light and dark red. Turns out, metros with good climate, higher education and lower density tend, on average, to have a more favorable industry mix to begin with. But some metros blessed with industries that are likely to grow – like New York and Boston – will be held back by harsher weather and a higher cost of living. Other metros – like Phoenix and Las Vegas – should grow fast despite having concentrations of industries projected to grow more slowly.
Could these predictions be wrong? Of course. They probably will be, in fact. The BLS experts are forecasters, not psychics: some industries will grow faster nationally than they predict, and others will fall short. Weather, education or density could matter more or less this decade than last decade.
And surely there will be unpredictable factors that affect individual metros: even events far less dramatic than Hurricane Katrina can throw a city off its growth path. To underscore the uncertainty, I’ve purposely not included numerical growth predictions – those depend not only on how metros do relative to each other but also how the national and global economy fare, and I’m not going anywhere near those big questions.
But people looking to move for work or pleasure need some sense of where the growth will be this decade, and industry employment projections and other factors together give us a reasonable view into where the growth is likely to be. The decades-long shift of American jobs and people from the Rustbelt toward the sun will continue.
*For the econometrically inclined: I took the coefficients from a 2000-2009 metro-level regression (weighted by 2000 metro employment) of actual growth on industry-mix-predicted growth, % with at least bachelor’s degree, several climate variables, and log tract-weighed population density and calculated fitted values for 2010-2020 growth by applying the coefficients from the 2000-2009 model to industry-mix-predicted growth for 2010-2020, % with at least bachelor’s degree in 2010, log tract-weighed population density in 2010, and the original climate variables. In the regression, all variables are statistically significant at the 5% level, and the R-squared is .39.
(Originally published on The Atlantic Cities blog)0 comments