The FWD: Where Are Virginia’s Zoom Towns?

The FWD #131

321 Words

September home sales reports show movement from the suburbs to the exurbs and beyond

Among the many changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is the sudden shift of white-collar jobs out of the office and into the living room. With commuting suddenly no longer a concern for a significant portion of the homebuying population, we’re beginning to see movement out of the affluent urban and well-connected suburban neighborhoods and further into the exurban and rural areas of America. Continuing our examination of the homeownership market from last week, we ask the data: where are Virginia’s so-called Zoom Towns located?

First, let’s look at the national trends. In the largest metropolitan areas, highly paid white-collar workers are moving to the vacation communities they may have previously visited seasonally. In New York, for example, there’s been a huge increase in demand in the Hamptons, met with a miniscule supply that is driving prices even astronomically higher than usual.

When we use Virginia REALTORS® data to look at how these trends are playing out in the Commonwealth, it’s a slightly different story. The Upper and Middle Peninsulas and the Eastern Shore saw an 80% increase in home sales this September compared with last September, with accompanying median sale prices rising up to 60% in some counties. Among localities with more than 5 sales per month, the largest median price increase was in Rappahannock County: 169%, from $240,000 in Sept. 2019 to $645,000 in Sept. 2020. 

Meanwhile, growth in Virginia’s more populous cities and counties was much slower. In Fairfax, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Chesterfield, and Henrico, home sales increased closer to the statewide figure of 32.5% and median sale price growth was also in the lower double-digits.

Demand is skyrocketing in rural Virginia, but September 2020 saw only 22,535 active listings statewide— a 41% drop from last year. When will new construction start to make up for this shortage?

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