If 2020 has shown anything, it’s that there’s no going back to life as it was prior to the pandemic. Ten months of health scares and business closures have permanently altered many people’s priorities when it comes to where they want to live.

Once considered the height of economic success, fancy urban apartments have sat mostly empty as urban dwellers left the city and sought out more isolated locales. For its annual list of the hottest neighborhoods, Redfin analyzed the top 10 areas attracting the most new residents in 2020 and into 2021.

With a fair mix of sleepy suburbs and once-seasonal vacation destinations, the list points to a number of clear trends: space, land and larger homes are the new priorities as buyers look for homes where they can shelter and weather out a crisis in comfort.

“Remote work is allowing Americans to live where they actually want to live,” Daryl Fairweather, Redfin chief economist, said in a statement. “People are no longer tied to the cities where their offices are located. Some folks are buying second homes in resort towns while others are moving to family-friendly suburbs where they can get more bang for their buck.”

Philadelphia suburbs exploded in popularity this year. Jon Bilous | Shutterstock.com

10. Mountain House, California:

  • Median sale price: $712,500 (+23 percent year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 6 (-42 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: -15% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 79%

About 60 miles east of San Francisco, the Central Valley’s Mountain House area began as a stopover for gold miners headed west but, in 2020, became a trendy locale for Silicon Valley professionals in search of isolation. The valley community is known for the kinds of large plots of land not possible in hyper-expensive cities like San Francisco, as well as highly rated schools spread across villages like Wicklund, Bethany, Altamont and Questa.

“Mountain House was hot before the pandemic, and now it’s even hotter,” Redfin agent Ali Schneider said in the report. “People were already moving out here because of the highly rated schools, and now we’re seeing even more families relocate to the area because Silicon Valley is shut down.”

9. Washington Township, New Jersey

  • Median sale price: $215,000 (+14% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 20 (-42 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +14% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 51%

Thirty minutes outside of Philadelphia, the Jersey suburb of Washington Township has been attracting residents from several areas at once: Philadelphia, New York and various parts of North Jersey. While offering little to tourists, this feel of a typical suburb (good schools, shopping plazas and single-family homes) has become particularly attractive to urban dwellers amid a pandemic.

“Any home that goes on the market in Washington Township is getting seven to 10 offers within hours,” Redfin agent Jackie Imperato said in a statement. “We’re seeing such an influx of people coming from North Jersey and Philadelphia.”

8. Somerdale, New Jersey

  • Median sale price: $220,000 (+25% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 18 (-37 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +24% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 52%

Another Jersey suburb to make the list, Camden County’s Somerdale is also 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and has been attracting families throughout the pandemic. The neighborhood can offer buyers larger homes for relatively reasonable prices, along with good schools and proximity to entertainment like restaurants, shopping centers and the Jersey Shore (an hour away).

“I’m seeing buyers move here from Philly because they’re tired of not being able to find parking and paying $400,000 for a tiny two-by-four apartment,” Imperato said. “They’re looking for an affordable spot that’s no more than 20 minutes from the city in case they need to start commuting to work again.”

Homes, houses, suburb

A typical suburb. Richard Brutyo | Unsplash

7. Fall River, Massachusetts

  • Median sale price: $315,000 (+17% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 23 (-32 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +6% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 67%

An hour north of Boston, the city of Fall River has started out as a textile town and evolved to host a number of historic happenings and residents over the years. Because it is farther away than high-end suburbs such as Winchester and Somerville, Fall River has been attracting Boston residents drawn by the affordability, even if, with low inventory and record-high buyer interest, that is shifting fast.

“Everyone is trying to get out of the city, and they can get more for their money in Fall River,” Redfin agent Alysandra Nemeth said in a statement. “Each offer I write for a client competes with a minimum of three other bids, and homes are selling for at least the asking price, if not a little more.”

6. Lakes Region, New Hampshire

  • Median sale price: $500,000 (+33% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 49 (-36 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +11% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 44%

The community around New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee has always been a popular Northeastern vacation destination for the winter and summer holidays. But this year, many visitors and vacation homeowners are choosing to make the Lakes Region their long-term home as professionals adjust to working remotely — the same picture has been playing out in places like Malibu in the West and the Hamptons in New York.

“Folks from Boston, New Jersey and New York are also buying second homes in the Lakes Region so they can escape the city for the weekend and eventually retire here,” Redfin agent Julia Martinage said in a press statement. “But there’s very little inventory, especially for lake homes. If you’re looking for water frontage, it will likely cost you at least $1 million, unless it’s a condo. And million-dollar homes are getting multiple offers—sometimes as many as six or more. Most successful buyers are waiving every contingency.”

Lakes Region, New Hampshire. Forestsociety.org

5. Sebago Lake, Maine

  • Median sale price: $324,895 (+18% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 8 (-21 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +32% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 44%

Furthering the trend of vacation destinations becoming year-round locales, Maine’s Sebago Lake has been attracting affluent residents from cities as far away as Boston and New York. Full of trails, hikes and Colonial-era homes, the town had once been considered an ideal place to vacation in or move to later in life. But when the pandemic hit, many pulled the plug and decided to make the move earlier than planned.

“I’ve never seen the market for lake houses this competitive,” Redfin agent Megan McShane said in a statement. “One of my clients missed out on two homes with five other bids after offering $50,000 over the asking price and waiving the appraisal and inspection contingencies. Another client went under contract for a $620,000 home that the owners had purchased for $400,000 in January and put no additional work into it.”

4. Stratford, New Jersey

  • Median sale price: $200,500 (+8% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 19 (-35 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +17% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 41%

Along with idyllic resort towns, comfortable suburbs were another trend to come out of the 2020 market. Both the city of Philadelphia itself and the surrounding suburbs like Stratford have become refuges for buyers used to tight city spaces and high prices. The affordable ($200,500 median) prices are a major draw but buyers should act fast as, according to Imperato — flippers and investors are already looking to cash in on what is likely to be the next red-hot market.

“Stratford is a cute little area bordering Gloucester Township, which is a half-hour drive to Philly and minutes from the Atlantic City Expressway that goes to the Jersey Shore,” she said. “The neighborhood is full of affordable homes that are great for first-time buyers.”

Lake Tahoe. topseller | Shutterstock.com

3. Big Bear, California

  • Median sale price: $220,000 (+9% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 35 (-34 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +79% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 50%

As Southern California’s most popular ski resort and mountain destination, the community of Big Bear is home to both high-end hotels and large plots of land far away from any infrastructure. In 2020, it attracted many residents looking for beautiful mountain vistas and isolation. Home sales skyrocketed by 79 percent compared to 2019 as more and more residents made the town their permanent home.

“Big Bear is a sleepy mountain town about two hours east of Los Angeles,” Redfin agent Tara Huston said in the report. “It has a lot of biker bars, quaint shops, little restaurants and log cabins. It’s a fun place to rent an Airbnb, have a family get together and play in the snow. There’s also a lake, which attracts vacationers in the summer.”

2. Chester/Andover, Vermont

  • Median sale price: $281,250 (+34% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 83 (-42 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +60% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 15 %

Ski resorts are another part of the country that, throughout the pandemic, became a draw for buyers. Chester and the nearby Andover are popular mountain communities in Vermont and, prior to 2020, went quiet after ski season and the brief boon of summer vacationers. This year, however, something else happened: Urban professionals now able to work remotely started coming to the town and buying up real estate.

“People are buying properties sight-unseen right now, which is not usually the case here,” said Redfin agent Julie Hance, adding that many new buyers are coming from New York and Connecticut.

1. Lake Tahoe, California

  • Median sale price: $945,000 (+28% year-over-year)
  • Median days on market: 48 (-25 days year-over-year)
  • Change in home sales: +87% year-over-year
  • Share of homes that sold above list price: 36%

A high-end vacation destination for years, Lake Tahoe has attracted buyers for years due to its world-class skiing in the winter and lakeside living in the summer. In 2020, it also earned a reputation as the place for affluent buyers to wait out the pandemic in style.

But those who have not already made the move will have to wait. Earlier this month, California re-entered lockdown mode and the town closed itself off to all visitors and buyers amid growing numbers of coronavirus infections.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

IDX Real Estate