The housing market in 2021 was characterized by frenzied demand amid historically low interest rates, pandemic-induced lifestyle changes, and strong demographics as well as supply chain headaches, a lack of housing supply, and rapid home price appreciation. This year’s Local Leaders list—a record of the nation’s 50 largest markets ranked by new-home closings in 2021—provides an overview of how these challenges and opportunities manifested across the country.

Overall, new-home sales registered 771,000 in 2021, down 6.6% from the historic 2020; the Zonda community count ended 2021 down 17% compared with 2020 and down 29% from the end of 2019. Median home prices increased steadily and ended 2021 up 17.9% on a year-over-year basis, while the number of homes sold over $750,000 increased by 62% compared with the previous year. In addition, Zonda chief economist Ali Wolf says the majority of builders capped sales all year in an effort “to temper demand and maintain an appropriate delivery schedule.” At the end of the calendar year, 75% of builders were still capping sales nationally. Even as volume declined for builders, though, the sales pace remained strong during 2021 compared with 2019, according to Zonda data.

The top five markets—Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas; Houston- The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas; Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, Georgia; Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Arizona; and Austin-Round Rock- Georgetown, Texas—have maintained their spots the past several years.

Dallas ended 2021 with 44,606 new-home closings, up from 41,035 in 2020, an 8.7% increase. Houston, the second metro in the rankings, reported 36,490 new-home closings, up from 34,353 in 2020. Wolf says those two markets meet prospective homeowners’ desire for space and additionally offer no income tax and relative affordability compared with other high-income markets. Dallas ranks second in high-income jobs recovered from the pandemic and in the top 10 among the 50 major metros of largest average unit size, per Zonda data.

Two other Texas markets—Austin and San Antonio-New Braunfels—ranked in the top 10, with 20,553 and 18,077 new-home closings in 2021, respectively. Wolf says Austin is a “booming millennial market,” adding and exceeding the levels of high-income jobs pre-pandemic. The higher incomes within the Austin market mean that the 30% price appreciation during the calendar year had little impact on affordability, according to Wolf.

“Those who find Austin too expensive have found a home in San Antonio,” says Wolf. “Like the other Texas markets, the no income tax is attractive, and Texas has more land than most states.”

Atlanta, the third largest home market, had 24,195 closings in 2021. Wolf says the metro’s appeal is its easy accessibility to all parts of the world through the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as well as the presence of 16 Fortune 100 companies in the metro and several television and film studios.

Phoenix, the fourth largest home market with 23,110 new-home closings in 2021, has provided an affordability respite for those from California’s higher-income markets, Wolf says.

“In addition to relocation buyers, ‘snowbirds,’ or those who look to retire in a warmer climate, continue to be an important buyer segment [in Phoenix],” says Wolf. “[Additionally], according to the most recent data, Phoenix has the highest entry-level sales rate of all markets [in the top 10].”

Rounding out the top 10, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida, jumped one spot to No. 7; Charlotte-Concord- Gastonia, North Carolina-South Carolina, inched up one spot to No. 8; Orlando- Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida, dropped two spots to No. 9; and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California, jumped from No. 14 to No. 10, with 13,119 closings compared with 2020’s 9,988.

“Riverside/San Bernardino benefited immensely from the rise of work from home as former Los Angeles and Orange County residents moved away from coastal areas for more space and affordability while remaining relatively close by,” Wolf adds.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia, the No. 10 market last year, dropped to No. 11 with 11,941 new-home closings, down from 12,032 closings the previous year.

The top 50 markets ranked by new-home closings are on the next page, followed by a look at popular layouts by leading builders in Riverside, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

Click here to view the full Local Leaders list for 2022, including the top 10 builders in each of the Local Leaders markets and scroll below for a look at popular layouts by leading home builders in Dallas, Riverside, California, and Washington, D.C.