It's time to tune out the chatter, the doom, and certainly the gloom: The American Dream of homeownership is alive and well. Really.But that doesn't mean it's easy to buy a home these days. So what are the stumbling blocks? Stroke-inducing student loan debt. Soaring home and rent prices, and a lack of properties in many markets. And let's not forget the Great Recession, which set so many would-be buyers back on their heels.
All this has dragged down homeownership rates, which hit 63.9% nationally in the third quarter of the year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's down about five percentage points from their pre-crash high in 2004.
But wait: There are bright beacons of hope across the nation, places where homeownership is actually on the rise.
The data team at realtor.com® set out to find those metros where homeownership rates are growing the fastest. In the process, we discovered a few trends. Ownership is shooting up the most in Rust Belt cities undergoing a resurgence; in smaller cities close to much bigger and pricier metros, where commuters can snag a home for less; and in fast-growing Southern hubs that are continuing to experience booming job markets.
Bonus: More than half of the metros on our list boast median prices well under the national median of $274,492.
"Affordability is a strong draw to these areas," says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®. A lot of these cities are on the outskirts of big cities where folks can snag an abode for less and then commute downtown for work, she adds.
However, interested buyers had better move fast—all this demand is steadily pushing home prices skyward.
To come up with our findings, the data team analyzed Census data comparing the homeownership rates in the first three-quarters of 2014 to the first three-quarters of 2017. The Census data only included 75 of the largest metros (with some cities moving on or off the list over the years, due to population shifts). Home list price data, from realtor.com, dates from Oct. 1.
So where are the most buyers settling into homes of their very own? Get ready for a few surprises...
Metros with the fastest-growing homeownership ratesClaire Widman
Row houses in Baltimorepeeterv/iStock
4. Baltimore, MD
Median home price: $300,040
Current homeownership rate: 68.4%
Three-year homeownership change: +7.3%
Baltimore doesn't often make the news with feel-good headlines. More than 300 people have been killed in the city this year. And just two years ago, the city erupted into riots after the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man, while he was in police custody.
But Baltimore's proximity to Washington, D.C., just 40 miles away, is its saving grace.
Baltimore has one of the lowest average costs of housing in the region, says Wayne Curtis, a real estate agent at RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Baltimore. In this area, it's often much cheaper to pay a mortgage than to rent.
Much of the housing within the city limits is single-family, row homes that share walls, with a few detached homes sprinkled in. They start at $225,000 to $250,000 in the more desirable neighborhoods, Curtis says.
But buyers be warned: Most of these abodes are about a century old, as the city hasn't seen a lot of new construction.