You can tell a lot about where Americans want to live by paying attention to where home builders are building the most homes. Builders respond to buyer demand – so if residential construction is rising in any particular area, the number of interested buyers is also likely increasing. That's why the National Association of Home Builders' Home Building Geography Index tracks building conditions and permits in various markets across the country. The data can be a good gauge of where Americans – and current housing trends – are moving.
According to the most recent release, which covers the fourth quarter of 2022, home building slowed pretty much everywhere at the end of last year, but the index did find one area growing while others fell. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, rural markets showed growth while more densely populated areas in the core counties of large and small metro areas saw declines. In other words, there's been a clear shift in buyer preferences toward more spacious, less populated areas further from city centers.