For the last couple of years, headlines about the housing market have dominated the news cycles. From housing shortages to sky-high home prices, we’ve all heard about how the pandemic has affected nearly every housing market across the nation. Many of us have experienced the phenomenon firsthand. But while the pandemic has certainly had an impact on the housing market, there are plenty of other factors that have spurred housing growth in counties across the nation—and these factors aren’t as widely discussed.
Take, for example, the massive impact the oil boom has had on housing in the Midwest. Between 2007 and 2012, employment in North Dakota’s oil and gas industry increased by 354%, resulting in a 19% population growth in western North Dakota alone. As oil companies—and oilfield employees—continue to move in, sleepy towns and counties have been upended by the sudden influx of residents. While more jobs may boost the economy, the rapid growth can also leave cities struggling to keep up with demands for health services, roads, transportation, and housing.
So which counties have seen the biggest housing growth over the last decade—and why? Better Mortgage, an online lender and homeownership platform with a free mortgage calculator, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau's decennial census to calculate which counties have seen the greatest increase in housing units over the last 10 years. The counties are ranked according to the percent change in housing units between 2010-2020, and the top 20 counties with the biggest growth in housing were selected for the national story. Census data on housing was released on August 12, 2021 for all counties in America. Here’s what you should know about your state.
The small Texas county of Kaufman is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, and that alone has had a huge impact on its housing demand. The DFW metro has seen a huge growth in population over the last 10 years, and as the inner-city housing inventory has been depleted, residents have turned to more suburban and family-friendly areas like Kaufman to find homes. Consequently, several developers have turned their focus to building master-planned communities in Kaufman County, where land is plentiful and demand for new homes is high. Other draws, like Kaufman County being ranked one of the best counties in the nation for families and young professionals, have kept home vacancy rates low, despite thousands of new homes being built there over the last decade.
Like Kaufman, Collin County, Texas, is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, and many of the same factors impacting Kaufman have caused home growth in this area over the last decade, as well. Thanks to its prime location near Dallas, Collin County has had a 36% increase in population since 2010. And with higher population numbers comes a need for more housing—which is one part of why Collin County has had such massive growth in housing in recent years. Families looking for single-family homes have set their sights on this area, and developers have delivered en masse. Plus, unlike areas within Dallas proper, there’s plenty of land to develop in Collin County, which makes it prime for the addition of new neighborhoods.
Montgomery County, Texas, is part of the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area, and as the city of Houston has exploded in growth, so has this county just north of the city, spiking 36.1% since 2010. One of the reasons for this growth is that there is plenty of undeveloped land in Montgomery County, which has allowed developers to erect a number of massive master-planned communities that cater to families and young professionals. Another housing growth driver is that the economy is thriving in areas like The Woodlands, which is home to numerous global companies, including Chevron Phillips Chemical, Anadarko Petroleum, and Baker Hughes, all of which attract professionals in need of housing.
Denton County, Texas, which is located about an hour northwest from the city of Dallas, has been booming in nearly every area of growth over the last decade. As part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro region, Denton County has become a hotspot for job seekers looking to work outside of the city, and there are employment opportunities in numerous industries ready to accommodate them—for example, Sally Beauty and Peterbilt Motors are headquartered there. The city of Denton is also home to the University of North Texas, putting housing at a premium (and in high demand). Luckily, there is plenty of available land in Denton County and over the last decade, developers have steadily added new housing to the county to accommodate all of the rapid growth.
The North Texas county of Rockwall is another DFW metro county that has seen explosive growth over the last decade, and as with counties like Denton and Kaufman, it’s due in large part to Dallas’ rapid growth. As more and more residents searched outside of Dallas proper for affordable and family-friendly housing, small counties like Rockwall became prime targets. That caused the population in Rockwall to grow by nearly 21% from 2010 to 2020, spurring the demand for more housing. The fact that Rockwall County offered plenty of land to develop properties also drove the rise in housing over the last decade—and continues to do so even now.
As part of the Houston metro area, Fort Bend County has experienced massive growth over the last decade. As of 2020, Fort Bend County was one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas, due in major part to the expansion of the city of Houston into more suburban areas. As more residents poured in, more housing was needed to accommodate them—leading to huge numbers of new neighborhoods being built in Fort Bend County over the last 10 years. Commercial growth followed suit, which has played a large part in attracting residents to relocate to Fort Bend County for work. And it didn’t hurt that this one rural county had plenty of land to develop—unlike areas in inner-city Houston, which allowed for a more rapid expansion of housing in the area.
The city of Austin has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and that growth has, in turn, spilled over to outlying counties. As part of the Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown metro, Williamson County—and the town of Georgetown in particular—has become a hotspot for residents looking to trade life in the expensive Austin city limits for more rural areas. As such, more and more housing has been added to accommodate the growing population. Georgetown—and all of Williamson County—is now flush with new home developments, and with such low vacancy rates, it’s likely even more will be added to the mix.
As part of the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area, Comal County has seen expansive population growth since 2010. Over the last 10 years, residents from nearby cities like San Antonio and Austin have poured into Comal County in search of more affordable real estate and a more rural lifestyle. This has led to a crushing demand for housing, and the housing inventory in towns like New Braunfels has been depleted. There’s plenty of land to build on in Comal County, but developers have struggled to keep up. With the home prices still rising in Austin and the surrounding areas—and no room in the city for new developments—it’s likely that the trend will continue for at least a while longer.
Hays County, Texas, is part of the Austin-Round Rock metro area—and as with other counties in this metro, it has experienced unprecedented growth over the last decade. In fact, Hays County was the fastest-growing county in the county, according to the latest Census data. That growth is due in large part to housing in Austin pricing out new and longtime residents. As home prices within the Austin city limits have increased, residents have turned to areas like Hays County for more affordable options. In turn, the existing housing inventory has been depleted, which has led home developers to try and keep up with the demand. Other factors, including companies such as Amazon putting down footprints in the area, have only added to the need for more housing.
In other areas of the nation, rapid rates of housing growth have other catalysts, including urban sprawl and economic growth. And, in rare cases, growth can even be caused by an unprecedented influx of retirees relocating to the area. The only consistent factor across these counties is that the subsequent housing growth has had a big impact on the housing market.
Keep reading to see which counties have been at the top of the housing market boom over the last decade.
#1. McKenzie County, North Dakota: 4,571 housing units added 2010-2020 (+147.9% since 2010)
#2. Williams County, North Dakota: 9,763 housing units added 2010-2020 (+93.3% since 2010)
#3. Hays County, Texas: 34,117 housing units added 2010-2020 (+57.4% since 2010)
#4. Dallas County, Iowa: 13,865 housing units added 2010-2020 (+50.9% since 2010)
#5. Comal County, Texas: 22,831 housing units added 2010-2020 (+48.5% since 2010)