According to a recent Realtor.com® report, a common theme among the hottest metro areas in February, from the East Coast to the Midwest, four of the top 10 metro areas were among the most consistent employers: the seat of government.
In February, Manchester, New Hampshire tied for first place with Rochester, New York in Realtor.com's monthly ranking of the hottest markets. This is the 20th time that Manchester has taken the top spot and the 7th time that Rochester has taken the top spot.
(The metropolitan areas in the report are ranked based on how often Realtor.com users click on listings, and how quickly properties sell. (Metropolitan areas include major cities and surrounding towns, suburbs and smaller urban areas).
While the top two spots were not given to state capitals, the third spot went to the state capital. Hartford, the capital of Connecticut. Home prices there are relatively affordable, with a median of $396,000 in February, slightly below the national median of $415,000 for that month.
"The appeal of capital cities, especially if they are reasonably affordable, is that you get the best of both worlds: a stable economy and access to good resources and amenities," said Hannah Jones, economic data analyst for realtor.com.
In Hartford's case, a stable economy means not only government offices, but also a historically strong insurance and financial sector. Large companies such as Aetna and Hartford have their headquarters here.
Hartford is easily accessible: it's only a 90-minute drive to the beaches of Rhode Island or the bright lights of Broadway in New York City, and only two hours to Vermont's top ski resorts.
"If you want to be in New England or the tri-state area, Connecticut is the best of all places," says Amy Chorew, a real estate consultant and 1 Realtor who has lived most of her adult life in the area. The Nutmeg State "connects you to everything," she says.
It is centrally located between Boston and New York City, she notes, while not being too close to the colder climates of New England. It's also more affordable than New York and New Jersey, and property taxes are much lower.
Chorew says that for suburbs with a "quintessential New England" feel and walkable downtowns, some of the towns around Hartford are ideal. They feel quaint, have excellent schools and a warm sense of community. But there is also a large walkable outdoor shopping centre in West Hartford with large national chains, cinemas and spa services.
Hartford itself is experiencing an economic renaissance, which includes reconsidering the location of the city's highway, which some residents believe contributed to the city's racial segregation throughout the 20th century.
Notably, Hartford is ranked number one in Realtor.com's top housing market predictions for 2023.
Hartford wasn't the only capital city in the top 10 this month. Columbus, ranked fifth, not only has Ohio's state government as a major employer, but is also home to the massive Ohio State University and Nationwide Insurance. However, the median listing price there was only $360,000 in February.
The Boston metro area came in at #8 and #10 was Providence, Rhode Island. Both areas have the variations described by Shero: a strong sense of history and place, access to outdoor amenities as well as the culture and hustle of the city, and a beautiful four-season climate. Perhaps that's why in February there were 2.4 times more views of properties in the Northeast than the typical US home.
But both were more expensive than the national median, which was $498,000 in Providence and a whopping $799,000 in Boston.
This explains the enduring popularity of Manchester's housing market. Located northwest of Boston, about an hour's drive away, Manchester has developed into a bedroom community in the metropolis.