To secure their next home, buyers are going to need some capital. To find the hottest metros in the US right now, prospective homebuyers might want to look to the capital—their state capital, that is.
That’s a common theme among a surprising number of February’s hottest metropolitan areas, according to a recent Realtor.com® report. From the East Coast to the Midwest, 4 of the top 10 metro areas are home to one of the most stable employers out there: the government.
In February, the Manchester, NH, metro tied for the No. 1 spot on the Realtor.com monthly Hottest Markets ranking with Rochester, NY. This was the 20th time Manchester snagged the top spot and the seventh for Rochester.
(Metro areas in the report are ranked by how often Realtor.com users click on listings, as well as how quickly properties sell. Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)
While the top two spots didn’t go to state capitals, the third one did: Hartford, Connecticut’s capital. Home prices there are relatively affordable, at a median of $396,000 in February, just below the national median of $415,000 during the month.
“The draw of capital cities, especially if they’re reasonably affordable, is that you get the best of both worlds: a stable economy and good access to resources and amenities,” says Hannah Jonesan economic data analyst at Realtor.com.
The draw of Hartford, CT
In the case of Hartford, a stable economy means not only government offices, but also a historically strong presence in insurance and finance. Major companies such as Aetna and The Hartford are headquartered there.
And its access to amenities is exceptional: It’s just a 90-minute drive to the beach in Rhode Island or the bright lights of Broadway in New York City, and two hours to primo skiing in Vermont.
“If you want to be in New England or the tri-state area, Connecticut is the best of all the places,” says Amy Chorew, a real estate consultant and Realtor® who’s lived most of her adult life in the area. The Nutmeg State, she says, “connects you to everything.”
It’s centrally located between Boston and New York City, she notes, without being too far north into the colder climes of New England. It’s also far more affordable and has much lower property taxes than New York and New Jersey.
For suburbs with a “quintessential New England” feel and walkable downtowns, some of the towns surrounding Hartford are ideal, says Chorew. They feel quaint and boast great schools and a warm sense of community. But there’s also a large walkable outdoor mall in West Hartford with big national chains, a movie theater and spa services.
And Hartford itself is undergoing a bit of an economic revival, which includes considering the placement of an urban highway that some residents believe contributed to segregation in the city throughout the 20th century.
Notably, Hartford was No. 1 on the Realtor.com Top Housing Markets forecast for 2023.
Capital cities are popular with homebuyers
Hartford isn’t the only capital city among this month’s top 10. Columbus, at No. 5, not only has Ohio’s state government as a major employer, but it is also home to the massive Ohio State University and National Insurance. Still, the median listing price there in February was just $360,000.
The Boston metro area comes in at No. 8, and at No. 10 is Providence, RI. Both areas have variations of what Cherow described: a strong sense of history and place, access to outdoor amenities as well as the culture and bustle of cities, and beautiful four-season weather. Perhaps that’s why in February, properties in the Northeast had 2.4 times the number of views as the typical US home.
But both are more expensive than the national median, with Providence’s median at $498,000 and Boston’s a whopping $799,000.
That explains the enduring popularity of the Manchester housing market. Manchester, about an hour northwest of Boston, has evolved into a bedroom community of the larger city.