It’s One of America’s Most Expensive Cities, and Home Buyers Can’t Get Enough
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It’s One of America’s Most Expensive Cities, and Home Buyers Can’t Get Enough

A metro area on California’s central coast ranked No. 1 in the latest WSJ/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Markets Index

By LIZ LUCKING
Thu, Feb 1, 2024 8:53amGrey Clock 4 min

It’s an area already popular with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

But now the affluent Santa Maria-Santa Barbara metropolitan area on the Central Coast of California nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean has ranked as the top housing market in the latest Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Markets Index, released Wednesday.

It’s a surprise result for the quarterly index, which has, until now, typically seen more affordable cities rank at the top—Topeka, Kansas, took first place in the prior iteration of the report, released in fall, and Lafayette, Indiana, in the summer ranking.

“Santa Maria-Santa Barbara topping the list serves to highlight the division in today’s housing market,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. It’s the one and only West Coast market in the top 20, and, with a median listing price of $1.795 million in December, the highest-priced market by more than $1 million.

The top five cities in the index were rounded out by Jefferson City, Missouri, where the median listing price was $302,000 in December; the Canton-Massillon metro area in Ohio ($230,000); Racine, Wisconsin ($334,000); and the Oshkosh-Neenah metro area in Wisconsin ($295,000).

“Many housing markets cooled off after the pandemic’s run-up in prices and inventory-depleting demand,” Hale explained. “The markets that have continued to chug along, and even gain steam, are either priced low enough that buyers can compete, or priced high enough that the typical affordability constraints are not of concern to the market’s buyers.”

The latter is the scenario that’s playing out in Santa Barbara.

The index analyses key housing market data, as well as economic vitality and lifestyle metrics for the largest 300 metropolitan areas in the country to highlight emerging housing markets that offer a high quality of life and are expected to see future home price appreciation. It identifies markets that those considering a home purchase should add to their shortlist—whether the goal is to live in it or rent.

Santa Barbara “offers perhaps the finest lifestyle in the U.S.,” said local agent Luke Ebbin of The Ebbin Group at Compass. “Three-hundred days of sunshine and warm weather, a relaxed pace of living, proximity to uncrowded beaches, mountain hikes, fine food and wine, and incredible cultural offerings more often found in major metropolitan areas.”

However, with that median listing price of $1.79 million—more than four times the national median—the price tag attached to the idyllic locale is well out of range for many would-be buyers.

“Though Santa Barbara is among the highest-priced large housing markets in the U.S., buyers in the area have seen similar trends to buyers in other more affordable markets,” Hale said. “For-sale inventory fell rapidly during the early days of the pandemic, and has not recovered much as demand waned in the area and homeowners chose not to sell.”

As a result, “buyers hoping to snag a median-priced home are facing more competition, which has driven prices higher,” she said.

In December, 71% of homes on the market in the metro were priced at $1 million or higher, up from the same time in 2019, when the metric stood at 62%.

“Buyers who have been eager to purchase here and have been on the sidelines due to low inventory and high interest rates are entering the market as rates decline and more inventory becomes available,” Ebbin said. That “low inventory and high demand are keeping prices elevated.”

It should come as no surprise then that Santa Barbara boasts an affluent population who “are drawn to the area’s lifestyle, amenities and upscale housing options,” said Santa Barbara-based agent Jason Streatfeild of Douglas Elliman.

Santa Barbara has “long been a popular destination for retirees, especially those seeking a mild climate, beautiful scenery and a relaxed coastal lifestyle,” Streatfeild said, noting that many migrate from colder regions of the country, as well as from other parts of California.

Not only charmed by the balmy wealth, individuals from far and wide are equally wooed to the area by its thriving entrepreneurial community, and Santa Barbara’s “robust job market, including opportunities in technology, healthcare, finance and education, attracts professionals from various parts of the country,” Streatfeild said. “Some may relocate from major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York in search of a more balanced and less crowded lifestyle.”

Indeed, out-of-towners appear to be driving demand in the coastal enclave, according to search data from Realtor.com. More than three-quarters (79.5%) of views to Santa Barbara home listings on the site came from outside of the metro in the fourth quarter, with a notable amount of attention coming from the Los Angeles (32.8%) area, according to the index. House hunters from Silicon Valley, Atlanta and New York City were also shopping in the area, according to Realtor.com data.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry and Megan Markle are prime examples that “Santa Barbara’s appeal extends beyond U.S. borders,” Streatfeild said.

The University of California, Santa Barbara, also attracts a global cohort—along with plenty of domestic new residents—who move to the area to pursue higher education.

The Santa Barbara metro area “attracted a sizeable 3.3% of its listing viewership from shoppers outside of the U.S.,” Hale said in the report. “Suggesting that international demand is applying pressure to already high prices.”

For comparison, “the average international viewership share across the 300 ranked markets was less than half (1.4%) the viewership share in Santa Barbara,” she added.



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We reveal the No. 1 areas for price growth in each capital city

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Jul 18, 2024 3 min

Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.

 

Sydney

Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.

 

Melbourne

Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.

 

Brisbane

Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.

 

Adelaide

Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.

 

Perth 

Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.

 

Canberra

Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.

 

Hobart

Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.

 

Darwin

Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.

 

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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