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JC metro again top 20 in national housing market list; prices continue rise


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City’s metro area is again in the top 20 of the Wall Street Journal/ quarterly emerging housing markets list, with its #14 rank marking its fifth straight appearance.

In a sign of continuing home affordability challenges, the list showed Johnson City had the third-highest median listing price among the top 20, at $413,000. That’s 10% higher than a quarter ago and 18% higher than the median asking price of $350,000 shown in last spring and summer’s rankings.

The release noted that most top 20 markets were seeing a lower share of “out of market” shopping compared to the national average, but that wasn’t the case in Johnson City, which “attract(ed) an outsized share of shoppers from elsewhere.”

The metro fell out of the top 10 for the first time in four quarters in the list, whose methodology ranks more than 300 metropolitan areas in two broad categories of real estate market and economic health/quality of life. Sub-indicators include real estate demand, real estate supply and median listing price trend for real estate.

Johnson City’s metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties ranked #1 in fall 2022 and #5 in last quarter’s rankings. Last quarter also saw the Kingsport-Bristol area enter the list at #7, and while it’s dropped from the top 20, the metro remains at #24.

Wednesday’s release said the top markets “offer shoppers a lower cost of living, including for homes, and thriving local economies that are attractive, but not too crowded.”

Whether Johnson City can maintain that trend without seeing a leveling out of its home price increases remains to be seen. Continued home price appreciation could eventually price too many middle income buyers out of the market.

“It’s more difficult than then I’ve seen it before,” Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors consultant Don Fenley said at an April 13 summit on affordable housing.

“I’d hesitate to call it a crisis, because there is affordable housing available,” Fenley said. “There is workforce housing available. It’s just not in the volumes that we would like to see.”

That $413,000 was still lower than the national average median of $424,000, but the gap (Johnson City is 2.6% lower than the national average) has narrowed considerably over the past year. Last spring, the national median was $405,000, but Johnson City’s median was $350,000, putting the metro 13.6% lower than the national average.

The WSJ/ economic and quality of life sub indicators include:

  • Unemployment
  • Wages
  • Regional price parities
  • Share of foreign-born
  • Small businesses
  • Amenities (measured by per capita “everyday splurge” stores)
  • Commute
  • Estimated effective real estate taxes

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