(NEXSTAR) – It’s no surprise that affordability remained a top concern among prospective homebuyers as mortgage rates spiked in 2022, but you still might may have a tough time guessing last year’s “hottest” ZIP codes, according to one study.

Chelsea Goyer, national head of brokerage at online real estate marketplace Opendoor, said the top 10 cities contained many of the perennial favorites, but the “emerging ZIP codes” of the 11-20 group caught her attention.

Rising neighborhoods in that group shared a common characteristic, Goyer wrote: “a small-town feel while close to a bustling downtown for entertainment, dining and shopping.”

When it comes to who’s shopping for a home right now, a Seattle-based agent with Redfin, Shoshana Godwin, said they often fall into two categories: first-buyers hoping to capitalize on a lull in climbing prices and bidding wars, and returning buyers who took a break during the “pandemic bidding-war frenzy.”

“They should be able to take their time and find a home for a slightly lower price than last year, but the market will likely become more competitive over the next few months,” Godwin said. “I expect new listings to remain scarce as homeowners hold onto low interest rates while the pool of determined buyers circle the few homes that are available.” 

So what were the hottest markets of 2022? Opendoor created the following ranking based on the number of homes that went into contract within 90 days of listing in the 50+ markets where they operate:

RankCityZIP Code
1Clarksville, TN37042
2Yukon, OK73099
3Katy, TX77494
4New Braunfels, TX78130
5Forney, TX75126
6Summerville, SC29486
7Cypress, TX77433
8Kissimmee, FL34747
9Leander, TX78641
10Murfreesboro, TN37128
11San Antonio, TX78253
12Loganville, GA30052
13Aubrey, TX76227
14Winter Garden, FL34787
15Cumming, GA30040
16Suwanee, GA30024
17Gallatin, TN37066
18San Diego, CA92101
19Port Saint Lucie, FL34953
20Parker, CO80134
(Opendoor)

“Clarksville continues to top our list for both its housing affordability and quality of life,” Goyer wrote of the top-ranked ZIP Code. “Clarksville has a thriving, close-knit local community while still being close to the action in Nashville.”

When it comes to motivation, Goyer said a recent survey found that 49% cited a more affordable cost of living, followed by lifestyle change (34%) and proximity to family (31%).

Between lofty homes and mortgage prices, it’s still tough for many buyers to find a traditionally affordable home, which is defined as having a mortgage-to-income ratio that’s underneath the 30% mark, according to Zillow.

Pending home sales numbers fall again

National data shows that pending home sales across the U.S. fell for a sixth consecutive month in November 2022, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

“Pending home sales recorded the second-lowest monthly reading in 20 years as interest rates, which climbed at one of the fastest paces on record this year, drastically cut into the number of contract signings to buy a home,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Falling home sales and construction have hurt broader economic activity.”

Not all regions were affected evenly, however, with the Northeast dropping 34.9% from the previous November, the South 38.5%, the Midwest 31.6% and the West 45.7%.

“The Midwest region — with relatively affordable home prices — has held up better, while the unaffordable West region suffered the largest decline in activity,” Yun said.

Pending home sales are an effective indicator for the broader housing market, as it gives an advanced view of upcoming sales closings, according to the NAR. The tool does have its limits, however, as financing, inspection and appraisal can alter the time it takes to go from contract to sale.