JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — More and more people are wanting to meet the mountains, and that’s helped push the Johnson City metro area to #3 nationally in a Wall Street Journal/’s latest quarterly emerging housing markets index.

The metropolitan statistical area (MSA) encompassing Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties rose from #17 this spring in the comprehensive study that includes 300 metro areas nationwide.

Realtor Joanna Borthwick said with the market as hot as it has been, she’s not shocked Johnson City ranked so high.

“I feel like everybody has found us in East Tennessee and it’s kind of exciting,” Borthwick said. “Our population is growing. They’re coming from California, and New York, and Florida, and Texas, and Colorado, everywhere.”

According to the story released yesterday, the top 20 markets “fall into one of two categories: affordable or outdoorsy.”

Johnson City hit both metrics, with the sixth-lowest median home price among the top 20 markets but a strong outdoors element with its proximity to lakes, rivers and the Appalachian Trail.

Johnson City City Manager Cathy Ball told News Channel 11 recently that despite rising interest rates and other economic pressures that threaten growth in some areas, her research is showing anything but a slowdown for the Johnson City area.

“I don’t have all the data to support it, but I would tell you that given just the research that I’ve looked at and the news headlines that I get on a daily basis, it’s just showing more of a trend of folks moving from more dense areas to less dense areas that have opportunities to be outdoors more,” Ball said.

She added that Tennessee is particularly attractive because of its tax structure, including no state income tax, and that “for a lot of folks coming here it is less expensive,” including home prices.

Interim Director of Planning and Development Services Dave McClelland said people in city hall are hard at work trying to support the growth that’s happening now and in the future.

“Be it roads, or water, or access to schools, you have fire, you have police, you have all these city services that serve folks,” McClelland said. “We need to make sure that those are available in the places where there’s more growth.”

The article listed Johnson City’s median home listing price for June at $350,000. That was higher than the #1 market, Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., and slightly lower than #2 Burlington, N.C.’s $380,150. But half the top 20 markets had median prices of $499,450 or higher, including similarly-sized mountain metro Billings, Mont. ($544,000).

The article by George Ratiu listed “Active and Outdoorsy Lifestyles” as the “New Benefit.” Under that subhead, it mentioned access to mountains in states like North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado or Montana. It also said the top locations were “well-suited for people looking for higher quality-of-life, in any generation,” listing things like good schools, parks, mountains and vacation homes.

The methodology breaks down into two broad categories of real estate market and economic health/quality of life. Sub-indicators include real estate demand, real estate supply and median listing price trend for real estate.

For economic and quality of life they include:

  • Unemployment
  • Wages
  • Regional price parities
  • Share of foreign-born
  • Small businesses
  • Amenities (measured by per capita “everyday splurge” stores
  • Commute
  • Estimated effective real estate taxes

The Kingsport-Bristol TN, VA area claimed spot #29 on the list.