The skyline of downtown Austin, Texas.
Bustling areas like Manhattan, San Francisco, Hong Kong and London will always draw high-end buyers who want to be smack in the middle of it all—and lock down investments that they know will turn a profit. But that isn’t the only way to think of a luxury purchase.
Whether it’s college towns or commutable suburbs, here are some less-talked-about spots making waves with luxury buyers around the world.
New York’s suburbs and boroughs heating up
In the New York area, “Queens is becoming a lot more popular,” said Dolly Lenz of Dolly Lenz Real Estate, who is seeing increased interest in townhouses in that borough among high-end buyers. In fact, luxury prices in Queens have lately jumped by double digits, according to a recent report.
“Anything close to a train, and close to Manhattan, is popular,” said Lenz. Buyers more interested in sky-high skyscrapers are drawn to Queens’ Long Island City neighborhood, a waterfront area just a 15-minute commute from midtown Manhattan.
For those willing to travel further outside the city, the upscale suburb of Bedford in Westchester County is particularly popular, according to Lenz.
“It used to be nicknamed ‘Deadford,” she said, “but now it’s on everyone’s lips,” thanks in large part to its many horse farms. “It’s beautiful, it’s bucolic and it’s very popular with second-home buyers.”
Elsewhere in the U.S.
The lack of estate taxes in Texas has always drawn luxury buyers to Dallas and Houston, but Austin has become rather popular, too. The state capital is a hipster-friendly town known for its music scene and nightlife. “People really like that vibe,” Lenz said.
North of New York, Boston has renewed appeal. “Unlike Florida, it’s not been overdeveloped,” she said. “And the truth is that $5 million buys a really nice house in a really nice area in Boston.”
For now, Brexit has created a tenuous situation. Depending on whom you talk to, London might soon be seeing a flood of dollar-backed buyers—or a mass exodus, accompanied by a building slowdown.
But there’s much more to Britain’s luxury market than just London. In the last few years, the cities of Bath and Bristol have become extremely popular with luxury buyers and have been “outperforming the rest of the market across the U.K.,” according to Celia Welham of Knight Frank.
In fact, prime property prices last year rose 6.6% in Bristol and 4.5 % in Bath.
“A key reason for the strong price growth in the cities, aside from lack of supply and growing demand, is the improvements being made to transport in the southwest,” said Welham. “The train line is set to be electrified, which will cut down the commuting distance to London, and key roads are being improved, as well as new flight routes opening from Bristol Airport.”
Travel time from Bath to London should be reduced significantly from the current 1.5 hours when electrification of the rail line to London is completed in 2018, said Charlie Taylor of Knight Frank. And Bath, he said, “is genuinely a fantastic place to live and bring up children. Not too big, fantastic schools, both state and private, great sporting facilities.”
“We represent excellent value for money compared to other areas of the country,” he said.
University towns offer culture with less chaos
Across the globe, university towns are luring luxury buyers with culture, nightlife and restaurants comparable to those in large cities, albeit on a smaller scale.
Bath is home to two universities, providing “a really good mix of young and old, with lots going on,” Taylor said.
Other towns in England that revolve around colleges—like Cambridge and Oxford—are also “attractive for alternative lifestyles,” said Stuart Siegel of Engel & Volkers New York City.
Back in the U.S., Siegel said he has seen growing markets that revolve around schools like the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and Stanford University in California.
“You’re seeing affluent customer bases going back to those places,” Siegel said. There are great cultural institutions, and usually great hospitals and medical care as well, he said, attracting buyers from middle age and up.
In Asia, emerging markets are hot
With the depreciation of the yen, high-end buyers are being drawn not only to Tokyo, but to other parts of Japan as well, said Thomas Lam of Knight Frank in Hong Kong.
He said he has his eye on Southeast Asia, and “emerging markets like Bangkok and Malaysia are becoming more interesting for buyers in the region.”
Most recently, the growing business district of Ratchadaphisek and an upcoming shopping mall in the Bang Na area have spurred the luxury market in Bangkok, according to the Bangkok Post. Several new luxury buildings and single-family homes are under construction there.
And in Malaysia, the significant fall of the Malaysian ringgit in 2015 has created opportunity for foreign buyers in particular. As Mansion Global previously reported, PropGoLuxury, an online luxury real estate platform, noted there has been a 45% spike in inquiries into luxury Kuala Lumpur properties this year, with the majority coming from neighboring Singapore. Malaysia’s growing tech community has helped the local market, too.