10 cities people hate to leave (and 10 you might want to avoid)

September 17, 2018 - 5 min read

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There are many advantages in staying put for a while when you buy a house.

  • You establish roots and friendships in the community, which is healthy
  • Your home value is more likely to appreciate in a place where people want to be
  • Staying longer saves you the costs of moving, selling and buying a new home

Do your research carefully to find a desired destination and avoid turbulent towns.

Buy a house in a town you’ll love

Getting a preferred mortgage interest rate and a good price on a home are important. But so is living in an area you will like and establishing roots. That’s why it’s crucial to research desired locations carefully. After all, you don’t want to suffer buyer’s remorse and feel compelled to move shortly after settling down.

Related: Don't move when you can improve (home renovation loans)

New research shows key markets where homeowners prefer to stay put the longest. And fresh data reveal towns where folks are most likely to leave sooner. Reviewing these lists can help you make a more informed buying decision.

10 cities people hate to leave

Realtor.com recently listed the markets where homeowners are remaining in place the longest. They are:

  1. El Paso, Texas: 99 months (average time between sales); $170,000 (median home list price)
  2. Albuquerque, New Mexico: 98 months; $259,500
  3. Oxnard, California: 97 months; $700,000
  4. Greensboro, North Carolina: 97 months; $215,100
  5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 96 months; $270,000
  6. Cleveland, Ohio: 95 months; $180,000
  7. Seattle, Washington: 94 months; $552,600
  8. Baltimore, Maryland: 93 months; $320,100
  9. Rochester, New York: 93 months; $184,700
  10. Jacksonville, Florida: 92 months; $302,400

10 cities where homeowners move away fast

Realtor.com also ranked 10 cities homeowners move the quickest from. They are:

  1. Providence, Rhode Island: 33 months (average time between sales); $350,000 (median home list price)
  2. Cape Coral, Florida: 35 months; $299,800
  3. Greenville, South Carolina: 36 months; $200,000
  4. New Orleans, Louisiana: 44 months; $286,100
  5. Madison, Wisconsin: 47 months; $310,000
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan: 51 months; $276,600
  7. Knoxville, Tennessee: 54 months; $265,100
  8. Boston, Massachusetts: 57 months; $500,000
  9. Omaha, Nebraska: 66 months; $288,600
  10. Augusta, Georgia: 66 months; $218,000

Why some cities are worth sticking around in

Lance Lambert, data journalist with Realtor.com, says these findings are revealing.

“The places where people are owning their homes the longest tend to be places where fewer folks are moving in and out. But that’s not the only reason. In some parts of the country, like El Paso, folks are less concerned with moving up into super-sized homes. They’re happy with what they own,” says Lambert.

Baltimore is a good case study for what makes a city list-worthy, says Suzanne Hollander, real estate attorney and Florida International University instructor.

“It has many employment and education options in the area,” she says. “These employment options include state and federal government, universities, and private government contracting companies. Also, there are several private and public universities in that area. Plus, the climate is moderate. And the area is close to major airports and some of the best medical care in the world.”

Why other towns aren’t long-term destinations

Realtor and real estate attorney Bruce Ailion says some markets turn owners off after they buy a house.

“Vacation, college and corporate relocation areas are often high-mobility locations,” notes Ailion. “Furthermore, people may buy a house in a recreational area like Florida and find it isn’t for them. Parents may purchase a home for their college children or to be near them and soon after feel like moving on. Trends like these probably explain a lot of the high-move locations on this list.”

Markets where people sell at a faster clip usually fall into two categories.

“Either they’re places with lots of second homes or places were lots of people are moving in and out,” Lambert says.

Take Cape Coral, for example.

“It’s a big time hotspot for snowbirds and vacationers. When these folks buy a house like a vacation home in Cape Coral, they tend to own for a couple years and then sell. So the real estate market in Cape Coral has a faster churn,” says Lambert.

Why staying put is a good goal

How happy you’ll remain in your chosen town is important. That’s because it’s costly and disruptive to move and start over again somewhere else.

“Real estate often appreciates over time in many markets,” Hollander says. “Staying put allows you to take advantage of the appreciation that happens over time – without incurring the costs of a move every few years.”

Related: Homebuyer tenure (How long are people staying in their houses?)

These expenses can include costs for the physical move and capital gains and other taxes. Additionally, it can include closing costs on the sale. The latter include real estate commissions and fees paid to a lawyer, title company and other vendors.

For this reason, Lambert recommends owning the same home for at least five years before moving.

“That’s true if you want to profit from the purchase. So it’s important to ask yourself how long you expect to own before selling,” says Lambert. “But it can be hard to foretell what’s going to happen to you next year or five years from now. So you should take the pulse of your local market and see how long folks tend to own their homes there before you buy a house.”

Advantages of high-turnover towns

But living in a market with faster churn has its benefits, too.

“It might mean that folks are hitting positive appreciation profits sooner than five years,” adds Lambert.

“They’re choosing to take those profits and move up elsewhere. If a market has faster price appreciation, buyers can get into the green before the recommended five years. And if another buyer beats you out for your dream home, you might not have to wait long before it’s on the market again.”

Factors that can help you make the right choice

Before you buy a house in a chosen market, Hollander recommends asking key questions:

  • What is the commute time to your job?
  • Are there similar jobs available in the area if you lose your job?
  • What is the quality of the school system in this area?
  • Do you have easy access to public transportation? Or do you have to rely on a car?
  • Is the weather preferable?
  • Is the location close to family and friends?
  • What is the demand for homes in this area?
  • What are the tax consequences of living in this area?

To play it safe, you might want to rent first in the area prior to buying.

Rent for a year if you’re not sure

“Before you buy a house, you should consider renting for a year in that city – through an entire change in seasons. This way, you can learn what neighborhoods meet your lifestyle and budget. And you can better assess what amenities are must-haves for that location,” attorney Elizabeth A. Whitman says.

Not able to rent first? “Try staying with friends or family who live in that city,” adds Whitman. “Also, work with an agent who’s an experienced relocation specialist. This person may be able to help target neighborhoods and amenities most suitable for your lifestyle and budget.”

Erik J. Martin
Authored By: Erik J. Martin

The Mortgage Reports contributor

Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.