In Already-Hot Nashville, Amazon Announcement Didn’t Boost Homebuyer Interest

Real Estate News & Analysis

In Already-Hot Nashville, Amazon Announcement Didn’t Boost Homebuyer Interest

Online views of homes in Long Island City and Crystal City soared, but Amazon’s plans for a major new office in Nashville didn’t have any impact on search activity in Music City.

When Amazon announced plans for a major new operations office in Nashville, online views of local home listings on Redfin.com stayed about the same as they’ve been throughout 2018. The flatness is notable compared with the massive spikes in Long Island City and Crystal City, where Amazon will open its second (and third) headquarters.

Reports of Amazon’s plans to add more than 25,000 jobs apiece to Long Island City and Crystal City first emerged on November 5, and Amazon confirmed the news on November 13, adding the bit about the Nashville operations office. In the seven days ending on November 7, views of homes for sale in Crystal City on Redfin.com jumped 302 percent year over year.  For Long Island City, growth in search activity peaked during the seven days ending on November 13, soaring 1,947 percent. But for downtown Nashville, which will be home to more than 5,000 new Amazon jobs, online views of listings hardly changed at all the week of the Amazon announcementsearch activity for the neighborhood was down 9.7 percent year over year in the week ending on November 7 and up 3.4 percent in the week ending on November 13. Small fluctuations like that are in line with search growth patterns since the beginning of the year.

In the HQ2 locations, user activity dropped in the weeks following the announcement, although online views of listings in Long Island City remained somewhat elevated into the beginning of December. For the week ending on December 6, search activity was up 22 percent annually in Crystal City, and it was up 205 percent in Long Island City.

Nashville chart updated

One possible explanation for the discrepancy between growth of online views of home listings in the HQ2 locations and Nashville is the simple fact that Music City is getting fewer new Amazon jobs. But the impact on Nashville’s job market is still large: Amazon’s plan to bring more than 5,000 jobs to the city is the single largest jobs announcement in Tennessee’s history, per reports.

Another likely reason is that Nashville has been one of the most popular destinations for people in other parts of the country looking for homes on Redfin.com since at least late 2017. On Redfin.com, a third of searches for homes in Nashville last quarter were from users outside the metro, consistent with last year’s level.

“Up to this point, all the growth has happened without even a hint of Amazon,” said Mel Priess, a Redfin market manager in Nashville. “Over the last three or four years, I’ve had people flocking here from California, the East Coast and Chicago. Coming from those more expensive housing markets, buying a home in Nashville feels like a windfall. And it doesn’t come with a sacrifice on lifestyle, as our area is packed not only with music and history, but also trendy neighborhoods, beautiful waterfronts and open spaces to enjoy nature.”

Rising home prices over the last five years reflect the increasing homebuyer demand in Nashville. In November 2013, a typical home in the metro area sold for $190,000; by November 2018, the median price had risen to $285,000. But even with the 50 percent jump in home prices over the past five years, Nashville remains a relatively affordable market; nationally, the typical home sells for $300,000. Pair that with a booming job marketNashville’s unemployment rate is 2.9 percent, compared with 3.7 percent nationallyno state income tax and relatively low property taxes, and it’s no surprise that so many people are moving to Nashville from pricier coastal markets.

Amazon’s entry into Nashville may not cause a spike in people looking at listings in the short term, but it reflects the city’s reputation as a robust job center and may help the city maintain a strong real estate market over the next several years. Scott Mosley, a Redfin agent in Nashville, said the market is already hot and predicts it will only get hotter as Amazon moves in. He has already helped some Amazon employees looking at homes for sale in the area, and investors are expressing interest, too.

“I have investment clients from outside the state calling me and saying, ‘Hey, that’s great news about Amazon; I need to buy more properties,’” Mosley said. “I think once there’s an actual footprint, when people can see where Amazon is going to be, that’s when people will buy homes. … There’s going to be a big wave.”

As for Long Island City and Crystal City, the jump in online views of home followed by a leveling off was to be expected, according to agents in the region.

Dave Diedrich, a Redfin agent in New York, said some agents in Long Island City were driving potential buyers around by the busload right after the HQ2 announcement—but now some people are backing off.  “Everyone got really excited about the impact this could have on the market, but now they’re looking at the prices, which are already too high for some people,” he said.

And in the Crystal City area, agents are starting to see some nuance when it comes to Amazon’s effect on the region. Redfin agent Mara Gemond said that in Crystal City itself, interest from real estate investors is still relatively high. But potential buyers who would occupy homes themselves are searching in the larger Arlington, VA area in neighborhoods like Ballston and Rosslyn, which are both about five miles away from Crystal City.

Gemond also said some potential buyers are worried about the impact Amazon will have on home prices in the area, including Crystal City itself and the surrounding regions. “I hosted a home-buying class last week, and about three quarters of the attendees said they’re concerned about being priced out of the market due to Amazon’s arrival,” she said.

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