Each year, millions of people log on to realtor.com to search for the perfect apartment rental or, perhaps, their dream home. A big part of that search often involves finding the perfect neighborhood where they can put down roots, raise children, enjoy an empty-nester lifestyle or just make their commute a little easier.
The definition of a great neighborhood differs from person to person. However, we have found some neighborhoods are so popular, that hundreds of thousands of people search for homes in them every month.
By analyzing ZIP code search data, we determined which neighborhoods were the most-searched-for, hottest places to live in America in 2013.
5. Ballantyne -- Charlotte, N.C.
Charlotte kicks off our list of hottest neighborhoods with its scenic neighborhood of Ballantyne. Charlotte-based Keller Williams realtor Lisa Archer -- one-half of "The Geeky Girls" -- says an intelligently-designed infrastructure and strong school systems are among the neighborhood's biggest selling points:
The Ballantyne area is in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, adjacent to the South Carolina border. There are a lot of new office parks and businesses that are cropping up to fuel the growth.
MetLife has established its U.S. Retail Business Headquarters in Ballantyne. Wingate University has also announced that it is moving its Matthews, N.C., campus to the Ballantyne area. Ballantyne also hosts several hotels and golf course communities.
There is also an enormous amount of shopping and dining offered in the Ballantyne area. Just a couple miles away are Stonecrest, Blakeney and South Park and Carolina Place Malls.
The schools are incredible and the housing demand reflects that. We are located 15 minutes from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the hub for USAir, which has just merged with American.
4. Pembroke Pines -- Hollywood, F.L.
Nestled in-between Miramar and Weston is the budding community of Pembroke Pines, F.L., a thriving community, and the fourth most-searched neighborhood on our website. The area has seen an upswing since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It has some of the finest schools in Broward County, top-tier shopping and restaurants and expansive communities. Luxury real estate agent Nathaniel Crawford of Limited Edition Living had this to say of the uniquely all-around neighborhood:
Pembroke Pines is a beautiful community that offers its residents the warm personal feeling of a small town, while also providing plenty of "big-city amenities." Palatial mansions, cozy condos and beautiful apartments provide an inviting and diverse atmosphere for everyone to enjoy this cool, yet vibrant place to live, work, play and vacation.
While the strong rental rates and property values are attractive to investors, the good schools, beautifully landscaped parks and diverse shopping and dining destinations combine with the year-round tropical climate and sunny days to entice residents from all over the world. It's not an enclave that the rich flock to in order to escape society, nor is it a sleepy little Florida town. It's a community with a unique blend of leisure, entertainment and culture. And now is the perfect time to call it home.
3. Wellington -- West Palm Beach, F.L.
Unlike the other hottest neighborhoods of 2013, this slice of Palm Beach suburbia is considered more of a winter destination, one built for the equestrian community. World-class equestrian facilities and an ideal climate for year-round riding and training make Wellington a coveted spot for those who enjoy taking life by horseback, according to Matt Johnson of Illustrated Propertes Real Estate, Inc. An active rider and competitor himself, the 16-year realtor veteran had this to say:
Wellington is a winter destination the world over for equestrian sports. The temperate climate is perfect for riding and training. While the rest of the world is suffering through winter, we're enjoying life on horseback and all that comes with that. The driving economic force in Wellington are the equestrians.
We are home to world famous polo, jumper and dressage competitions during the winter months. These events attract participants from all over the world including the Royal Family members, A-list celebrities, top CEOs, tech billionaires and members of the Forbes list.
Many of these individuals have multimillion-dollar investments in equestrian estates and homes within the village. It's truly a destination for the who's who, and is the driving force behind our appreciating real estate market. On any given day you can see top riders and Olympians training and competing. There is no other place in the world that has such a concentration of top horses and riders within a five mile radius. It's such an exciting place to be and to be selling. The future is bright here.
2. McKinney, T.X.
Whereas the neighborhood of Keller in Fort Worth was a hot commodity in 2012, the up-and-coming area of McKinney proved to be the big draw in the Lone Star State. Dallas real estate expert Candy Evans of Candy's Dirt points to its ease of access and forward-thinking growth plan as two big reasons why this Dallas neighborhood is on the rise:
McKinney is fabulous; [it's] one of the nation's fastest-growing communities because it offers a quieter, small-town style of living, yet is only 30 miles north of downtown Dallas. But that proximity really doesn't matter because there are jobs all over Dallas and Collin Counties, spread out in "depots," like the Telecom Corridor in Plano, Frisco, Richardson and Arlington. McKinney boasts charm, safety and great schools. Taxes are low, too, but keep in mind property taxes in Texas are high because we have no state income tax. You can choose from historic homes with quaint front porches, Victorians or brand new, "Big Hair" McMansions with master spa baths and media rooms for less than $500,000.
I think McKinney is a place to watch carefully in the future, too, for incredible growth and appreciation. Let's look at the airport. In fact, it's changing its name from the Collin County Regional Airport to the McKinney National Airport. It has a new, one-year-old, 70,000-foot runway set to service private jets. This is important because Dallas Love Field, the city's oldest airport, will be free from the restraints of the Wright Amendment in October of 2014. The Wright Amendment restricted air traffic at Love Field to bordering states to help grow Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport back in the 1970s. McKinney could benefit from Love Field's expansion, with many private and corporate jets landing there. That is going to accelerate the real estate market like crazy. I know of some other changes coming to McKinney that will make it even hotter -- stay tuned to CandysDirt.com for all of it!
1. Old Town Chicago, I.L.
With roots dating back to the 1870s, well-preserved Victorian-style buildings, a fashionable dining scene, and its vibrant urban, pedestrian-friendly Near North Side location, it came as little surprise to see Chicago's Old Town repeat its 2012 ranking as the most-searched neighborhood on realtor.com. Old Town's appeal is clearly off the charts, and no one knows this better than Newman Realty's Lauren Mitrick:
Why is Old Town so hot? We can start with the fact that it's the hub of Chicago's three most popular neighborhoods, sandwiched between the Gold Coast to the east, Lincoln Park to the north and River North to the south. With a Walk Score of 93 percent, you are steps from shopping, nightlife, restaurants, the beach and waterfront, a world-class weekly farmers market and easy access to public transportation. Commuters take no more than 15 minutes to get to Chicago's downtown Loop via the CTA train or bus.
Historically significant, Old Town survived the Great Chicago Fire and is populated with turn-of-the-century buildings nestled on quiet, tree-lined streets. Housing in Old Town is a mixture of single-family homes, condo and rental high-rises, and two-three flat buildings. It's home to museums, comedy clubs and a number of gyms and fitness studios. Walk north two blocks and you stumble upon Lincoln Park Zoo, where you can hear the roar of the lions and walk through beautiful gardens where you may spot wedding parties snapping pics.
Hungry? Wells Street is the main artery in Old Town where you will find different types of bars and restaurants, from old pubs to contemporary fine dining. There are five large grocery stores in the neighborhood including one of the largest Whole Foods on the planet, where you can shop while sipping one the latest craft brews from the local Goose Island Brewery. The lakefront is worth mentioning twice. Walk down to the beach and park to find beach volleyball, water-sport rentals, bike and running paths, fields for group sport leagues and numerous spots to stop for lunch or drinks.
Old Town is a bustling and friendly neighborhood where there is truly something for everyone!