Empty Offices, Busy Malls: The Paradox of U.S. Real Estate in 2023

The towns and cities that have grown the fastest over the last few years have typically been located outside of major metropolitan areas in the Sunbelt and Southwest regions of the country. Fueled by the pandemic trend of relocating to lower-cost areas, these places have seen significant growth in the number of new residents, many of whom were attracted by less expensive housing, lower taxes, and warmer weather. As populations in these areas have soared, home values are experiencing major changes as well. To better understand how much impact population growth has had on local housing markets, we compared the most recent population growth data with median listing home price growth over the last two years. 

City Population Growth Median Home Price Growth
Georgetown, TX 14.4% 33.3%
Santa Cruz, CA 12.5% 39%
Kyle, TX 10.9% 32.2%
Leander, TX 10.9% 35%
Little Elm, TX 8.0% 35.7%
Westfield, IN 7.7% 35.7%
Queen Creek, AZ 6.7% 28.2%
North Port, FL 6.6% 59.5%
Cape Coral, FL 6.4% 63.3%
Population growth data between 2021 and 2022 via U.S. Census Bureau; Median home listing price growth percentage between January 2021 and July 2023 data via Realtor.com

The Census Bureau recently released its list of the country’s fastest-growing towns and cities. Notably, of the 15 identified, nine cities were in the South. The fastest-growing city in the country, Georgetown, Texas, saw its population jump 14.4 percent last year. Georgetown is located about 27 miles north of Austin, a city no stranger to skyrocketing population growth. It’s the second year in a row Georgetown has been named the fastest-growing city in the U.S., something the city’s mayor attributes to job growth and quality of life, like an expansive hike-and-bike trail system and an abundance of parks. Last year, officials in the country where Georgetown is located approved an economic incentive agreement with the California-based tech company CelLink.The tech firm, which makes wiring systems for EV manufacturers, is planning to build a $130 million facility in the city that could bring up to 2,000 jobs. The median listing home price in Georgetown was $499,900 as of July, a 33.3 percent increase from January of 2021. While the figure jumped significantly, it’s still considerably less than in Austin, where the median listing home price was $650,000 as of July.

One of the outliers on the list, Santa Cruz, California, came in second in the Census Bureau ranking, with the population rising 12.5 percent in 2022. The coastal city in Northern California is about 73 miles south of San Francisco, a place that has seen an exodus of residents since 2020. However, the sharp uptick in residents last year was not due to San Franciscans looking to relocate. Santa Cruz’s mayor said in May that the city’s large student population is behind the jump in figures. “I don’t think it’s much of a mystery,” said Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley of the uptick. “The University of California at Santa Cruz is the single largest entity in our town.” During the first year of the pandemic, with the campus mostly shuttered, Santa Cruz lost close to 13 percent of its population. Over the last two years, home values in the city skyrocketed. As of July, the median listing home price in Santa was $1.6 million, a 39 percent increase from January 2021.

The other outlier among the top 10 on the list is the city of Westfield, Indiana, the only representative from the Midwest in the top 10. Located about 20 miles north of the state’s capital, Indianapolis, Westfield’s population grew 7.7 percent in 2022 from the previous year. The figure mirrored the city’s growth in 2021 when the population expanded by 7.7 percent. Home prices grew in the city last year as well. Between January 2021 and July 2023, the median listing home price increased 35.7 percent, rising from $364,734 to $495,000. Like Georgetown, Westfield city officials have attributed its population growth in part to quality of life elements, including hike-and-bike trail systems, good public schools, and one of the country’s best youth sports campuses.

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Among the other fastest-growing cities we measured here, three are towns not far from major cities in Texas. Kyle, Texas, is a town about 20 miles south of Austin; Little Elm, Texas, is a Dallas-Fort Worth northern suburb; and Leander is a town northwest of Austin. Queen Creek, Arizona, the 7th-fastest growing city, is also located outside of the larger city of Mesa, Arizona. The cities ranked 8th and 9th-fastest growing in the nation are both located on Florida’s Gulf Coast and experienced the largest growth in home values than any other city in the top 9. North Port, Florida, is located in the North Port–Bradenton–Sarasota Metropolitan area and has a population of 85,099 as of 2022, a 6.6 increase in population from the year prior. The town’s home values skyrocketed 59.5 percent between January 2021 and July 2023, with median listing home prices increasing from $260,000 to $414,900. About 45 miles to the south of North Port, the town of Cape Coral, Florida, experienced the largest home value increase, with median listing home prices rising an astonishing 63.3 percent between January 2021 and July 2023. The city’s population grew 6.4 percent last year. 

What the population numbers and median home listing price numbers show confirms a lot of what we’ve already seen and heard during the last few years. Many people are choosing to relocate to places with a lower cost of living than bigger cities that are getting more expensive. Three cities among the top 10 fastest-growing are outside of Austin, a city that has seen explosive growth in residents as the city’s tech industry has expanded. As a result, housing costs have become extremely expensive, leading many people to seek out lower-cost options. Florida’s Gulf Coast has been a magnet for new residents, as cities like Tampa have seen major residential and commercial projects take shape, like the $4 billion Water Street Tampa development. These fast-growing cities may be more affordable options that also have expanding industries and high quality of life, but as the data shows, it may not be that way for long: home costs are on the rise.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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