In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns in March, many Americans discovered that their existing homes were not adequate for the “new normals” of working, teaching, exercising, and cooking at home. According to surveys, home shoppers are “looking for more space, quieter neighborhoods, home offices, newer kitchens and access to the outdoors, traits which have revived a strong interest in the suburbs and smaller metro areas.”

Real estate’s new normals are also creating other opportunities. Dozens of cities and markets that were once considered too small, too rural, or lacking in amenities and/or culture in general are now finding themselves being bumped to the top of the real estate desirability lists.

New Normals: Strong Regional Growth for Small Cities, Suburbs

“The hottest housing markets in the new landscape are cities which offer desirable amenities—larger homes, leafy neighborhoods, access to the outdoors, walkability and proximity to grocery stores—in a more affordable package,” says’s Ratiu. “Home buyers still want to be within commuting distance of large employment centers, but with the prevalence of remote work, they are willing to extend the distance from urban downtowns.”

As a continuing part of the new normals, data from real estate platform Zillow’s research group paints a similar picture of strong regional growth across small cities as well as suburbs within an hour of established major metro areas. At the top of Zillow’s list as of October 2020, three of America’s hottest real estate markets are in Ohio: Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

However, motivated buyers on a budget might want to consider moving away from pricey urban centers, especially if remote working is an option.  According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “Rural areas have mortgages (USDA loans) that don’t require down payments; and some workers who can work from home may want to consider outer suburbs or small towns where USDA home loans are available and where homes are very affordable.”

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