After making it at least twice this year into realtor.com’s monthly ranking of top housing markets in the country, Topeka landed on that website’s 2020 list of the top 10 “hottest ZIP codes” in the U.S.
In a report released this month, realtor.com ranked Topeka’s 66614 ZIP code as the sixth “hottest” residential area in the U.S. based on housing demand and relative affordability.
According to the realtor.com report, the site’s economics team looked at ZIP codes in the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. from April through June of this year, taking into account which ZIP codes received the most page views per property on realtor.com and which areas had homes on the market for the fewest number of days.
The report indicated the median list price in Topeka’s 66614 ZIP code is $159,500 and noted the median list price for all homes within the city limits is even lower, at $132,500. It touted Topeka as a smaller city to which buyers might flock as they look for less-expensive options that still provide somewhat of an “urban feel.”
“This type of recognition shows that people are recognizing that Topeka is a place where people want to live, work, play and connect with others,” said Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives for the Greater Topeka Partnership.
Stapleton said the ranking points to efforts by the city’s community members to provide the best possible experience for those who come to Topeka, and it goes back, she said, to programs like Choose Topeka and initiatives like Momentum 2022 that have helped put Topeka on the map.
“What I think Choose Topeka’s done is helped people from other parts of the country and the world see what the opportunities are and what the potential is in terms of job opportunities and living and lifestyle within the community,” Stapleton said. “We’ve had 20 candidates so far that have chosen to move or are in the process of making that move and getting that finalized. … It’s highly possible some of them have purchased within that hot ZIP code.”
According to the realtor.com report, homes in its top 10 “hottest” ZIP codes sold in just 18 days on average — “four weeks faster than in their respective metropolitan areas and roughly 51 days faster than properties in the rest of the country.”
Linda Briden, CEO of the Topeka-based Sunflower Association of Realtors, shared data from the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate that shows homes in Topeka and Shawnee County are actually selling even faster than that 18-day average.
The average number of days a home in Shawnee County sat on the market in July was 15 — down from 25 days in July 2019.
Briden has indicated previously, though, that the median number of days homes sit on the market — as opposed to the average — is a better indicator of the county’s housing situation. In July, homes in Shawnee County sat on the market for a median of just three days. The median was at nine days in July 2019 and at seven days earlier this year.
“That number has gone down even more,” Briden said.
She said those statistics are, in part, a product of supply and demand, driven by an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.
“The Midwest, and especially Topeka, offer a lot for your money in terms of purchasing a house,” Briden said. “Even with prices and home values rising due to low inventory, the low mortgage rates can offset that increased cost over the life of your loan.”
Still, she said, “there is a need for more housing inventory.”
“We need more houses on the market,” Briden said. “Topeka needs to be attractive, affordable and inviting to developers and builders.
“Topeka hasn’t recovered from the 2008 economic crash in terms of the return of home builders and developers,” she added. “Lawrence and Manhattan have seen new development. However, Topeka continues to lag behind. Why is that? We have a great community, wonderful schools, revitalized downtown and much more. A buyer can get much more house in Topeka than surrounding communities.”
Briden is hopeful the Topeka City Council will consider adopting all four of the priority recommendations listed in the executive summary of a community housing study commissioned last year. Those priority recommendations include funding the city’s affordable housing trust fund, establishing a strategic land bank to resurrect blighted properties, expanding the city’s community development ecosystem to encourage long-term neighborhood improvement and boosting the city’s weatherization and housing-repair programs.
According to the City of Topeka’s website, an implementation plan regarding those housing recommendations is currently being drafted for review by the council later this year.
Stapleton said that while she is no housing expert, she and the Greater Topeka Partnership support the involvement of different housing entities and potential plans the city may propose to benefit the community as a whole — like the economic development and quality-of-place initiatives already underway.
“We’re supportive of those types of efforts and appreciate that the experts are the ones that are kind of looking at that as we do move forward in the coming years,” she said.