Markets to Watch in 2014

Every year we scour markets, talk to agents and brokers, and dial in the latest stats to find the best prospects for the coming year. This year, there were more “best of” and “to watch” lists than ever. Some of our 14 for 2014 appeared on several; others are best bets based on year-end activity; and some, such as Detroit, just bear watching.

By Camilla McLaughlin

1. Atlanta — The recovery took its time getting here, but now it’s full on, with prices increasing by 16.4 percent in October, the third highest rate of increase among the 100 largest metros in the U.S. Cash offers “way above listing price” are not uncommon, especially for prime downtown condos, and the city is abuzz with new projects.

2. Cape Cod, Mass. — Bay State home sales and prices jumped in October. A hot third quarter made up for a slow start to 2013 for high-end sales on “the Cape,” and sets the stage for the spring market. Topping the charts is a $14 million transaction in Woods Hole.

3. Detroit — It might seem that the Motor City’s fate hangs in the balance, but local agents tell us young professionals are moving into mid-town. Dan Gilbert’s buys sparked broader interest among international investors. Listing prices are up 44 percent.

4. Houston — Move over Dallas, all bets are on Houston this year. Median list prices, home sizes and luxury features outpace Dallas. Inventories are low after 30 straight months of positive gains. While some activity in some price brackets began to taper off in the fall, there was no slowdown in luxury sales.

5. Los Angeles — The L.A. market has been on fire, but the city’s platinum enclaves set the pace for luxury, both globally and locally. Foreign buyers prize plum trophy homes. Interest from overseas will keep this market on high ground. The final stats are not in, but Coldwell Banker Previews International charts 84 closed sales of $10 million-plus and 13 in the $20 million and up categories in Westside luxury markets.

6. McLean, Va. — Northern Virginia dominates the list of highest income counties in the U.S., making for the best market since 2006 in this tony suburb and surrounding towns. Demand exceeds inventories with new homes hot commodities. Move-up buyers returned in 2013, and that’s one reason why 2014 will be even better.

7. Naples, Fla. — Slated by NAR as a top turnaround in 2014. Year-end saw a balanced market and the selling season hasn’t even begun. Locals make the comparison to Aspen. Foreign buyers (other than Canadians) are beginning to take a peek here. Brokers say interested buyers who don’t make a move will regret it.

8. Park City, Utah — The 2002 Olympics were just the beginning of the rise of this resort town’s star, which was voted “America’s best town.” Sundance brings the glitterati, but skiers, fly fisherman, hikers and bikers love the easy air access only 40 minutes away. Uber-luxury here competes with the best of them.

9. Santa Barbara, Calif. — The luster of this platinum enclave only shines brighter post recession. Median sale prices are up by almost 30 percent and list prices here are up by 33.39 percent with a $799,000 median price.

10. Santa Fe, N.M. — Low inventory put a damper on sales at the end of 2013, but the lifestyle, low property taxes and one of the most vibrant arts scenes (after New York and L.A.) in the country make it a strong contender for pre-retirement buyers. The city’s enchantment and weather lures buyers from Texas, California, Boston and New Orleans.

11. Seattle — It’s been a banner year with a 100-percent increase in the number of homes sold for $2 million and up. September’s stats were the highest for a September since 2006, with mid-to high-priced neighborhoods posting large increases. Asian buyers love Seattle, but the local economy, including Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon, keeps sales perking.

12. Stowe, Vt. — The recovery rolled into Stowe this year. Third quarter sales increased 21 percent over third quarter 2012, and sales in the $500,000-to-$1 million bracket nearly doubled. As more wealthy consumers look toward a second, rather than a move-up home, Stowe will see more activity.

13. Lake Tahoe — When November’s snow began to fly, homes moved off the market faster than in the previous four months. Single-family homes and condos are selling for 95 percent of asking price. A recent gem includes a Jay Jeffers-designed penthouse at the Ritz Carlton that sold for $5 million. Median prices spiked 19 percent year-over-year.

14. Vero Beach, Fla. — A top super ZIP code in the state, Vero evokes old Florida and old luxury. With 20 miles of oceanfront and 30 miles of river frontage, prime properties are plentiful. Last year, 68 percent of buyers hailed from South Florida, but the lifestyle and lack of income taxes bring newcomers from all over.