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Certain cities are gaining popularity among online house hunters

Date posted:  2/19/15 08:30:00 AM Orlando's housing market is gaining steam among online home shoppers.

The top five most-searched housing markets all came from different states, according to a recent report from Realtor.com. That just goes to show how the housing market is increasingly spread out, Jonathon Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, said in a press release.

"In 2014, we also saw some neighborhoods stand out from the pack, eliciting the most searches on Realtor.com for the entire year," Smoke said. "The hyper-local markets on this list demonstrate the wonderful diversity of real estate demand across the country."

Realtor.com conducted the study by tracking the most popular neighborhoods studied by online visitors. Orlando, Florida, was the most-searched place on Realtor.com. Las Vegas; New Orleans; Fort Worth, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia, rounded out the top five.

Fort Wayne, Indiana; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Diego; Chicago; and Columbus, Ohio, all made their way into the top 10.

Among the top 10, Orlando was popular because of its relatively cheap housing costs. The Central Florida city offered the second cheapest median home price on the list at $276,000. Fort Wayne, with a median list price of $146,000, had the cheapest housing. Not surprisingly, San Diego was the most expensive with median listings going for nearly $1 million.

But certain areas are popular for different reasons. Young homebuyers without families might be more interested in nightlife and various recreational activities. Families with children typically place a greater emphasis on school districts and the overall quality of their neighborhoods. Smoke said if there was one correlation between the top 10 most-searched places, it was a price tag that was higher-than-average.

"Median list prices in these most-searched neighborhoods are near $400,000, well above national median of $214,000, as well as their respective metro medians," Smoke said. "Homes in these communities are moving quickly as the aggregated median age for the group is almost half of the national median of 90 days."

Buying a home is cheaper than renting
Despite the fact that many young adults are still choosing to rent in these popular areas, buying is actually a more cost-efficient way to pay for a property.

Studying more than 500 U.S. counties, RealtyTrac reported the fair market price to rent a three-bedroom property would be 27 percent of a person or family's median household income in 2015. Comparatively, the median household income it would take to buy a three-bedroom home was a bit less at 25 percent.

"Many of the markets with the jobs and amenities they want have hard-to-afford rents and even harder-to-afford home prices; while the more affordable markets have fewer well-paying jobs and tend to be off the beaten path," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Will the housing market improve in 2015?
Smoke expects the housing market to continue to move forward following a relatively strong 2014. Regardless of a slow start during the winter months, Smoke said the housing market picked up enough steam during the rest of the year to warrant some optimism.

He said two factors largely helped the market: an improved job market and better gross domestic product. However, the housing market wasn't all good news.

Some first-time buyers were left on the sidelines because of low inventory levels and stringent lending standards that asked for a substantial down payment for a borrower to secure financing.

"Unfortunately, the low number of homes for sale and stringent lending standards prevented a normal number of first-time homebuyers from closing on their first home in 2014," Smoke said.

Young adults typically don't have the same amount of cash saved up as other demographics when looking at a home purchase.