Home Nevada The Wealthy Flocked to 6 Lesser-Known Spots During COVID-19

The Wealthy Flocked to 6 Lesser-Known Spots During COVID-19

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The wealthy fled coastal cities for suburbs, ski towns, and vacation hot spots during the pandemic.
The real-estate brokerage Coldwell Banker issued a 132-page report on where the rich moved and why.
It identified six lesser-known areas where affluent Americans were flocking in unprecedented ways.
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Over the past year, droves of wealthy Americans relocated from major cities and the coasts to homes with more space in the suburbs, ski towns, and vacation hot spots.

A new report by the real-estate brokerage Coldwell Banker broke down where and why the rich have moved — as well as which locales served as the most desirable retreats. 

The allowances of remote work have led to a renewed emphasis on the amenities and features of homes — from extra square footage and access to nature to swimming pools and air-purification systems — that make it more comfortable to spend days and weeks sheltered in place, the study found.

And more than one factor has influenced one-percenters’ moves and spending habits.

“Efforts to safeguard wealth led people to cast wider nets into real estate, stocks, art, technology, gaming, and other niches; many accelerated plans to move to tax-friendlier locales,” the report said. “Ideas about wealth itself also shifted as the affluent set sights on ‘intangible luxuries,’ like family, health, safety, security, and space. The search for intangibles created new demographic groups, called ‘affluent trailblazers’ who relocated from cities to small-town hidden gems, suburbs and popular second home destinations in 2020.” 

With that in mind, Coldwell Banker took the pulse of 19 luxury markets across the US and identified six hot spots the wealthy started to notice — and buy into — during the pandemic.

To pinpoint these places, the brokerage analyzed statistics that indicated demand, like sales prices and total number of homes sold. It also asked local agents for insights as they witnessed COVID-19-era buyers descend firsthand.

Using those metrics, Coldwell Banker singled out three areas it labeled “new discoveries” for deep-pocketed buyers: spots in New England and the West where the wealthy moved in 2020 but where the demographic had previously not sought out property at such robust levels.

The brokerage also identified three markets it called “ready for discovery,” under-the-radar gems that are ideal for the wealthy to invest in next. In each of these Southern and Midwestern locations, the number of homes sold each month has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, but prices have remained accessible for the well-heeled, in the $500,000 to $800,000 range.

What ties all these newly anointed hot spots together is that they’re distanced enough from major hubs for people’s budgets to go further but not so remote as to be inconvenient. They’re often surrounded by beautiful natural preserves. The real-estate booms in these places reflect buyers’ desire to acquire more square footage and amenities without ditching city living entirely.

Here’s a deeper look inside the three regions wealthy homebuyers discovered en masse in the past year and the three burgeoning ones they’re already migrating toward next.

1. New discovery: Burlington, Vermont

Burlington.

REUTERS/Caleb Kenna

The mad rush for Burlington began a year ago with renters who thought their relocations were temporary.

“The rental market initially exploded as families wanted to escape the bigger cities and see how the pandemic played out,” the Burlington broker Brian Boardman said in the report. “But starting in May, buyers began been purchasing homes in record numbers.”

Burlington, the most populous city in Vermont, with about 42,000 residents, is tucked into the northeast corner of the state. It has a quaint downtown area dotted with restaurants and breweries, as well as natural beauty that’s easily accessible.

“Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain with views of the Adirondack Mountains, Burlington may seem like a new discovery for luxury real estate in 2020, but it has a rich history as one of New England’s most desirable places to live,” Boardman said. “Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, a world-class hospital, and a great school system.”

Stowe, Sugarbush, and Smugglers’ Notch are nearby ski resorts that have long attracted Bostonians, New Yorkers, and residents of other metropolitan areas looking for a change of scenery, Boardman added.

Burlington has a low crime rate and appeals to progressive young people, he said.

But the pandemic has fueled interest from property buyers hailing from much farther afield.

“Our buyer pool has come from as far away as Europe and the far east,” he added.

2. New discovery: Reno, Nevada

Reno, Nevada.

gchapel/Getty Images

Californians have migrated to Las Vegas en masse during the pandemic because they can get more square footage for less money and enjoy lower tax rates. But Reno, Nevada’s third-largest city after Vegas and the Vegas-adjacent Henderson, is earning accolades — and luring new residents from out of state — with its underrated charm.

“Reno, known as the ‘Biggest Little City,’ with its affordable luxury and lifestyle, along with no state income tax, has been a magnet for people moving from the northeastern states and California,” Nancy Cane-Engle, an area realtor, said.

The coronavirus crisis accelerated trends that had already been in motion: Over the past 20 years, Californians discovered their dollars could go further to purchase both luxury homes and housing for older people in Nevada, Cane-Engle said.

Ample job opportunities and leisure activities in the area draw younger professionals.

“The Tesla Gigafactory and high-tech data centers have also attracted millennials wanting to partake in Reno’s privileged living,” Cane-Engle said. “There are PGA golf-course communities with city views, equestrian estates, downtown penthouses, and condos attracting all age groups.”

Just across the California border from Lake Tahoe, Reno also offers easy access to world-class skiing, hiking, boating, hunting, fishing, camping, and more, according to Cane-Engle.

3. New discovery: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Mona Makela Photography/Getty Images

Millennials who could work remotely decamped to Idaho from California for its affordability, work-life balance, and natural beauty. So strong are the Gem State’s lures, in fact, that Idaho was one of the US states that gained the most residents during the pandemic.

While many moved to Boise, the capital city, Coeur d’Alene is seen as an up-and-coming destination for relocators. In the northwest corner of the state across the border from Spokane in Washington, Coeur d’Alene sits on a picturesque lake and is populated with resorts and ranches. 

“Besides the natural beauty and recreation opportunities offered by our lakes and mountains, the nature of north Idaho appeals to buyers coming in from places like Seattle, Portland, California, and even Texas,” Kathleen Tillman, a local agent, said.

Luxury communities with laundry lists of amenities have proved particularly popular with pandemic-driven homebuyers, whose demand has driven up prices at the most posh enclaves. Tillman listed a few such enclaves.

“The Golf Club at Black Rock and Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club showed some of the most rapid growth in our luxury market,” Tillman said, adding that entertainment and sports stars were flying in all year at Gozzer.

“And the median price was up 52.3% to $2.68 million,” Tillman said, adding that houses there frequently attracted multiple offers. “Black Rock’s $1.725 million median price was up 94% from 2019, with selling prices at 97.6% of list prices.”

The homes that line Coeur d’Alene’s eponymous lake are coveted too, Tillman added.

“My prediction is that the market will continue to be driven by the same buyers, inventory will continue to be an issue, and desirable land will become scarce,” she said.

4. Ready for discovery: San Antonio

San Antonio.

joe daniel price/Getty Images

America is in love with Texas as people move there in droves, Insider’s Andy Kiersz and Madison Hoff wrote. And while the tech-y Austin earns a lot of hype, it’s getting crowded — and expensive.

Just one hour southwest of Austin by car, San Antonio is emerging as a less-crowded, still fun alternative.

“San Antonio has a vibrant economy that’s attracting buyers from everywhere, especially California and recently from Mexico,” Miguel Herrera, the vice president of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, said.

A river runs through Austin — and another runs through San Antonio. Herrera said: “Our most iconic scenery is downtown at the Alamo and the adjacent San Antonio River Walk, a 2.5-mile stretch of walkways and bridges with dining and shopping below street level that gives our city the nickname the ‘Venice of Texas.'”

Buyers can find condos in the city’s downtown and in Alamo Heights, a stately old neighborhood that also has houses priced from about $900,000 to $2 million and sometimes higher.

But buyers are already catching wind of San Antonio’s charms, so be warned: There may not be a lot of houses for sale. “Inventory is very thin,” Herrera said.

Despite dwindling inventory, “New luxury developments are sprouting up farther north,” Herrera said, pointing to one gated community called The Dominion, which has “golf courses, majestic mountain views, and amazing contemporary homes that typically sell for $1.2 million and higher.”

5. Ready for discovery: Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee.

Paul Hamilton / EyeEm/

U-Haul data showed more people moved to Tennessee than any other state last year.

And while Nashville and Memphis are the state’s most populous hubs, Tennessee’s No. 3 city is also on the up and up.

“Top reasons people move to east Tennessee include the lower cost of living, no state income tax, and the ability to enjoy all four seasons surrounded by lakes and mountains,” Claudia Stallings, the vice president of residential sales at Coldwell Banker Wallace, said. “People come here to get more house for the money, and it’s an easy drive to larger cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Birmingham.”

A city with about 185,000 people in the eastern swath of the state, Knoxville is a university town centrally located just a few hours by car from North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.

Stallings has helped house hunters from states including California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Texas, and Arizona buy in Tennessee. And while many transplants are over 50, Stallings said younger working couples with now remote jobs were moving to Knoxville, too.

The housing stock includes historical homes, sleek downtown condos, and farms in the city’s outlying areas. 

“The number of homes sold above $500,000, our luxury threshold, increased almost 61% in 2020,” Stallings said. “As our beautiful area is discovered, I predict that our luxury market will continue to grow for primary residences and for vacation and investment properties.”

6. Ready for discovery: Hamilton County, Indiana

Carmel, Indiana.

Michael Godek

Indiana’s property market has boomed, the local news outlet CBS 4 reported, with new-to-market homes attracting dozens of offers in just days and prices significantly higher than a year ago.

One hub of interest is Hamilton County, a swath of manicured suburbs about a half hour’s drive northeast of Indianapolis.

“With a median household income just shy of $100,000, Hamilton County is Indiana’s most affluent county, and its cities of Carmel, Fisher, and Westfield are Indianapolis’ most desirable suburbs,” Steve Slavin, a real-estate agent, said.

Downtown Carmel’s recent redevelopment improved its walkability, culture, and cuisine, Slavin added, and the golf courses and country clubs just outside town are some of the “finest in the Midwest.”

Many quality houses cost from $300,000 to $400,000, with luxury properties starting around $760,000, according to Slavin. “Bigger homes with larger lots, many of them 7,000 to 10,000 square feet on 2 or more acres, routinely sell for $1.2 million and higher,” he said.  

Indiana’s capital is also home to major corporations who employ many Hamilton County residents.

“Hamilton County finds an ample pool of eager buyers among business owners and executives from Indianapolis-based companies like Eli Lilly, Roche Diagnostics, and Anthem, as well as Salesforce, a major employer in the area,” Slavin said.


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