It’s that time of year again—builders await long overdue traffic and added promise of more entry-level buyers in 2015 as the spring selling season kicks off. With most Northeast housing stuck in the snow for the next couple months (our regards to America’s most hated Groundhog), where will the home buyers ready to settle into a new home make their choices in the dead of winter? Although most of the big metros close less than 20% of annual new home sales in the first-quarter, a few cities nationwide are poised to put the slow sales pace ending 2014 out of sight and mind. Before an expected influx in entry-level buyers, here’s where we might see some action in hot retiree markets, with a few puzzling anomalies.

Using data from Metrostudy, the top nine markets for first-quarter sales are analyzed by new home closings over the past three years by share of sales in the first-quarter. To find the markets to watch this winter and into the start of spring, we first eliminated any markets with fewer than 1,000 new home closings during the first-quarter from 2012 through 2014. Then, markets are ranked by the share of their first-quarter closings during the same period. Finally, the top nine are targeted first by having at least 20% of new homes have been sold in the first quarters of those years. Second, only markets with a year-over-year increase in new home closings from 2013 to 2014 make the list, showing promise of good first-quarter in 2015.  

Usual suspect snowbird markets in South and Central Florida make up nearly half the list. The Villages, the nation’s most successful active adult community, comes in first with 23.23% of all new home sales in the last three years occurring in the first-quarter.  One of the Texas market giants, Dallas, also unsurprisingly makes the cut. Charleston, South Carolina, another market ideal for escaping the snow and with high active adult population has had 21.81% of its new home closings for 2012 through 2014 in the first-quarter. Representing the Mid-Atlantic region is Salisbury, Maryland, recently ranked a bad city for big families to look for new home, and where 22.6% of closings have been in the first-quarter, both indicating it’s a better market for retirees. Interesting markets on the list that don’t align with winter sale expectations include Boston, where characteristically home searches overall slow in January and February. First-quarter new home sales in even one of the chilliest big markets, however, are still stronger than most of the country making up 22.12% of all new home closings in the last three years. Finally, Portland is another outlier on a list of mostly Southern markets, with 21.69% of new home closings in the first-quarter and a consistent year-over-year rise in new homes closed through the last several years.



The bigwig builders miss no opportunity to capitalize on snowbird buyers. DR Horton leads the big builders in top first-quarter closings among these markets for the last three years and is the top closing builder during this period for the Jacksonville and Dallas markets. Lennar, the Villages of Lake Sumter (The Village’s sole builder) and Pulte Group the other big first-quarter closers. Lennar leads closings in Miami and Orlando, while Pulte takes the Charleston market as well as Boston with a small lead in first-quarter closings over Toll Brothers.

Top 5 Builders in All 9 Markets 1Q12-1Q14

Total 1st Quarter Closings

DR Horton

3,504

Lennar

2,216

Villages of Lake Sumter (The Villages)

1,989

Pulte-Del Webb-Centex

1,561

First Texas Homes (Dallas)

789

Here, check out how the top markets performed in closings over the last few years and the top builders by first-quarter closings.

The Top 9 Markets for 1st Quarter Closings: 1Q12-1Q14

% Share of Closings

Top Builder

Closings

Builder 1st Quarter Market Share

1. The Villages, FL

23.23%

Villages of Lake Sumter

1,989

96.60%

2. Salisbury, MD-DE

22.60%

NVR

332

29.17%

3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL

22.23%

Lennar

822

21.81%

4. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

22.12%

Pulte-Del Webb-Centex

106

7.40%

5. Charleston-North Charleston, SC

21.81%

Pulte-Del Webb-Centex

280

15.67%

6. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

21.69%

DR Horton

312

14.18%

7. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

21.57%

Lennar

513

11.52%

8. Jacksonville, FL

21.49%

DR Horton

574

20.46%

9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

21.07%

DR Horton

1,641

14.64%

Source: Metrostudy