Stay or Go: The U.S. Metros Where Homeowners Stick Around—and the Ones They Can’t Wait To Leave
Joe Strummer and Mick Jones put it so poetically in The Clash’s 1982 classic: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
It’s a question all homeowners have to face eventually. Is their house one to hold on to, or is it time to move on? Realtor.com® took a deep dive into the data to find the places in the U.S. where homeowners are hanging on to their homes the longest—and where they’re most likely to trade up or trade down more quickly.
It turns out a lot of what goes into that choice depends on the market conditions. In some places, the costs associated with buying and selling are higher—and that can mean holding on longer is more attractive. In other places, fees and taxes are low, and gaining equity is easier, so a shorter stay can mean an upgrade from a starter home, or into a dream home, in less time.
In general, people have been staying in their homes for longer, says Nadia Evangelou, director of real estate research at the National Association of Realtors®.
With home prices having risen rapidly in recent years, Evangelou says, many of the homeowners have taken on mortgage payments that make up a bigger percentage of their incomes. And with higher prices come higher costs and fees, all adding to what’s known as the “lock-in effect.”
The places where homeowners often stay for the shortest periods are those that are more attractive to out-of-state buyers, or younger and first-time buyers who might be starting their families, says Evangelou.
So where are homeowners sticking around these days—and where are they eager to scram?
To find out, we looked at sale record data (from CoreLogic, a real estate sale data provider) stretching from January 2001 through August 2022. We focused on the median number of months that passed between the most recent home sale and the previous time it changed hands, for the largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Some areas were excluded, because the available sale data doesn’t go back to January 2011, but the large majority of metropolitan areas (71 of the top 100) were included. To ensure geographical diversity, only the single metro area in each state was included—except in the case of a tie.
1. McAllen, TX
Average time between sales: 10 years, 3 months
Median home list price: $277,000
Median days on the market: 48
In McAllen, the average time between the last two sales of a home is more than a decade. That’s almost a year longer than the next city on the list.
Aside from the fact that home prices in the area are more than 30% lower than the U.S. average, what makes McAllen unique is mostly cultural.
McAllen is a medium-sized city, in southern Texas, right along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, it’s so far south, that McAllen residents live farther south than 10 million Mexicans.
For those looking for a bicultural community, McAllen offers a lot. Residents of McAllen can be in Reynosa, Mexico, in a matter of minutes. For three-quarters of households in the area, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And more than 1 in 4 residents was born in Latin America.
Despite homeowners staying put, there are still homes for sale in McAllen, including this four-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $245,000. Those looking for a deal can scoop up this two-bedroom, one-bathroom house for just $142,000.
2. New York, NY
Average time between sales: 9 years, 5 months
Median home list price: $699,000
Median days on the market: 62
If you can make it there, as Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, you can make it anywhere. But why go anywhere else? At least, that’s what the data shows.
New York has some of the highest barriers to entry of any market in the U.S., with sky-high home values and often mammoth closing and homeowners association costs that come on top of the sticker price.
Grant Braswell, an associate broker at Compass, has been working in the New York City market for 12 years, and he sees every day just how much money it takes to buy in New York.
“If you’re looking at a co-op, a lot of times they require 20% down,” Braswell says. “Then you’re looking at a 5% to 6% broker’s fee” and taxes and additional fees that can add an additional 3% to 5%. These costs add up fast, especially considering list prices that are often above $1 million.
“You could be looking at needing well over $200,000, sometimes up to $400,000 or $500,000, in cash,” Braswell says.
That’s a pretty good incentive for homeowners to stay put.
Average time between sales: 9 years, 3 months
Median home list price: $352,495
Median days on the market: 37
Founded in 1729, Baltimore became a booming port town in the 18th century where the nation’s first post office was established. It was later the site of the War of 1812’s eponymous Battle of Baltimore, memorialized in “The Star Spangled Banner.”
It’s fitting that in a city rich in so much U.S. history, homeowners also maintain longevity, with an average of more than 9 years between sales.
Homeowners in some of the city’s older neighborhoods stay forever, says Jackie Ovad, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty there.
“Their family lived there, sometimes for generations. If you talk with some of them, they still know everyone on the block,” Ovad says. “You’ve got generation after generation of homes and families. For a lot of them, everything is kept the same.”
4. Miami, FL
Average time between sales: 8 years, 8 months
Median home list price: 617,000
Median days on the market: 50
Miami earned the nickname “The Magic City” because of its sudden appearance—like magic. The city’s population grew quickly during the first half of the 20th century, its seemingly never-ending summer luring newcomers, especially those fed up with the drudgery of winters in cities farther north.
Carolina Suarez Rivas, a local real estate agent with Basel House, says the city’s population stagnated in the ’80s and ’90s.
“It wasn’t as safe then,” she says. “But a lot has changed in the last 20 years. Once people get a look at it now, they want to be here.”
South Florida has long been a retirement destination, meaning buyers who cash in their nest egg and move into what becomes their final home—one they sometimes keep for 20 or 30 years. This pushes up the average time between sales—and earns Miami a spot on our list.
But there are also more businesses moving to Miami and bringing new residents with them, who end up staying.
“These companies are opening a second office or another branch. A lot of finance. A lot of international business,” Suarez Rivas says. “The taxes are lower here. You have the weather, the ocean, the nightlife. And they just end up staying.”
And whether it’s retirees or new transplants coming for work, the condo communities being built in Miami these days are providing even more of what people are looking for, Suarez Rivas says.
“People who come from big, busy cities are looking for something walkable,” says Suarez Rivas.
Keep up with key real estate trends
Average time between sales: 8 years, 4 months
Median home list price: $572,800
Median days on the market: 36
Homes in Washington, DC, aren’t quite as pricey as those in New York City or Miami, but they’re well above the national average, bringing with them significant fees and costs for every move. That can serve as a big deterrent to buying and selling more frequently. The competitiveness of the local real estate market also keeps many homeowners in place.
In Washington, DC, buyer demand has whittled the average days on the market to just 36, about 25% faster than the national average. That’s even faster than in New York City, where the typical listing spends 62 days on the market. In Miami, that figure is 50 days.
Rounding out the top 10 metros where homeowners had the longest tenures in their homes were Oxnard, CA, Toledo, OH, and Cleveland, which tied for Nos. 6–8; Greensboro, NC, at No. 9; and Albuquerque, NM, at No. 10.
Average time between sales: 4 years, 9 months
Median home list price: $525,500
Median days on the market: 33
Colorado Springs is known for many things, not least of which is the natural beauty surrounding the state’s second-largest metro area. It sits in the shadow of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s tallest mountain summits, and claims the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods on the edge of the city.
It’s also home to several military installations, which helps to explain why homeowners don’t tend to stay where they are for very long. There’s an Army and Air Force base, plus a Space Force base and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), embedded inside Cheyenne Mountain just to the southwest of Colorado Springs.
While more senior military members can enjoy longer assignments to a single location, often younger military members are moved to where they’re needed, meaning a sometimes short stay in any given place.
And what might not be clear at first, says Jerrod Butler, a Realtor with Wish Property Group who works with many service members, is that there are also a lot of government service contractors, who work in support roles for the military. Their contracts can be a lot like an armed service assignment, with a few years in one location, then a new assignment somewhere else.
“That’s huge here too,” adds Butler.
Average time between sales: 5 years
Median home list price: $351,450
Median days on the market: 42
Greenville is often ranked among the best small cities in the nation thanks to its scenic downtown along the Reedy River, vibrant restaurant scene, and burgeoning arts culture. It’s also known for its beautiful surroundings, sitting at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by lush, rolling hills.
This has made the city, which is in the northwest “upstate” corner of South Carolina, popular with retirees, students, as well as workers coming in from all over the world. Greenville is about halfway between Charlotte, NC, and Atlanta.
With designated “foreign trade zones” in South Carolina’s upstate, Greenville is home to more than 250 international firms. These companies bring with them frequent corporate transplants, which goes a long way to explain the quick time between home sales there.
Homes are still reasonably affordable in Greenville as well. Buyers can find a three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch home on a half-acre for just under $300,000 or a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in a complex with a pool for just $135,000.
Average time between sales: 5 years, 1 month
Median home list price: $312,500
Median days on the market: 37
The affordable housing stock in Indianapolis means homebuyers can quickly move up the ladder of homeownership—going from a starter home to a larger second home, and eventually into a dream home—faster here than in most other places, says Kelly Lavengood, a Realtor with Good Living Indy.
“I ask people how long they intend to stay in the home they’re shopping for,” Lavengood says. “If the answer is ‘three or four years, and then we buy the dream home,’ then they have a lot more flexibility in what they’re shopping for now.”
Average time between sales: 5 years, 1 month
Median home list price: $412,400
Median days on the market: 38
Knoxville has recently been dubbed “Knox Vegas,” a reference to both the art, music, sports, and nightlife culture that surrounds the University of Tennessee and the population boom the city has seen in recent years. It’s been one of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. cities in recent years.
Knoxville’s low cost of living and decent salaries have earned it the distinction of being an especially attractive city for recent college graduates. It’s no wonder it has a short average time between home sales, at just over five years. Younger homeowners are more likely to buy and sell more quickly.
Homes are in high demand here, too. They are on the market about 17% fewer days than the national average, another reason why owners might look to sell more frequently.
5. Spokane, WA
Average time between sales: 5 years, 4 months
Median home list price: $495,500
Median days on the market: 34
Spokane is a surprise for those unfamiliar with the Evergreen State. It’s far from the sprawling metropolis that’s long been an icon for the state, Seattle, situated along Washington’s eastern edge and only about 45 minutes from Coeur d’Alene, ID. It’s even closer to Missoula, MO, than to Seattle.
It’s not just far geographically; it also has a totally different environs. With a population of only about 219,000, Spokane offers a less busy, less urban lifestyle, with access to the great outdoors just beyond the city boundaries. And the housing market is also more affordable than other West Coast cities.
“Historically, we’ve been just below the national average,” says Marianne Bornhoft, Realtor and broker at Windermere Manito Real Estate, “so it’s a sweet spot where people can buy, immediately add equity by fixing up a home, and then sell and buy something a little bigger or nicer.”
The low prices, along with homes that could use updating, have meant it’s been a great market for the right buyers.
Those factors, along with the moderate climate and abundance of outdoor, quality-of-life amenities, led to a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve always told people that they need to hold on to a home for three-and-a-half or four years in order to make money with it. But in the last two or three years, Spokane’s prices have doubled,” Bornhoft says, “so people have been able to make it work out much faster.”
Recognizing the opportunities, Bornhoft took advantage herself and bought, renovated, and sold a local home all during the pandemic.
“I’m part of your statistic,” she says. “I did a pandemic flip and even blogged about it.”
Rounding out the top 10 metros where homeowners have the shortest tenures in their homes were Lakeland, FL, at No. 6; Atlanta, at No. 7; then Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Oklahoma City, OK, tied for Nos. 8–10.