How to Spot the Next Hip Neighborhood

By Erica Corsano

Some people have a knack for finding—and buying into— neighborhoods on the cusp of trendiness before the buzz begins. What are their secrets? What telltale signs do they look for? Great buildings? Cool clubs? Edgy theater? Proximity to other “in” enclaves? Here are eight strategies savvy buyers use to get ahead of the pack—and so can you.

Outdoor dining in Boston’s SOWA (South of Washington) district. (Photo: Chris Anderson/CDAMEDIA.US)

1. Keep an Eye on the Local Culinary Scene.

Davio’s restaurant in Boston’s Seaport District. (Photo: Jen Alvarado)

Foodies and chefs always seem to be a step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to finding spots that are under the radar—but won’t be for long. Craig Brody has seen it time and time again. They’re the ones to watch when you’re on the hunt for up-and- coming neighborhoods, says Brody, a licensed real estate agent for Douglas Elliman in Boston. “Following local food blogs like Eater can give clues as to what trendy restaurants are opening in which neighborhoods.” The food theory extends to trendy grocery stores. They tend to pop up when neighborhoods start to gentrify and get hot. “If you see a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, that’s a sure sign” that an area is on the map, Brody says.

 

2. Find Out Where the Artists and Musicians Are Heading.
Historically, culture vultures have boldly ventured where less avant-garde souls feared to tread, then throngs have followed these tastemakers. In fact, developers often identify new investment opportunities by finding growing subcultures of artists and musicians, notes Tracy Turco, an artist, hotelier, and entrepreneur in Palm Springs. Creatives frequently kickstart revitalization in industrial stretches of cities and towns simply because they’re looking for large spaces, like those found in former factories and warehouses, with reasonably low rent. Small eateries catering to the creative crowd pop up, galleries follow, and in flood fans and culture buffs—along with cool indie stores and upscale retail to serve them.

Palm Springs’ Art Hotel, recently reimagined by artist Tracy Turco. (Photo: Courtesy Art Hotel)

3. Take Note of Chic Boutique Hotel Openings in Interesting Locations.
They are a clue that an area is on the rise, says Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development in New York City and Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. “Boutiques” usually offer between 10 and 100 rooms and, even if they are not independently owned, feel like they are because they exude local personality. Design details tend to deliberately echo the history and current vibe of the area where they’re located in order to celebrate a locale and immerse guests in it—a signal that the hotel is catering to affluent fans of the creative work being produced in the neighborhood.

Salsa dancing at Ball & Chain in Miami’s Little Havana. (Photo: Sean Pozin)

4. Watch for Areas with Rich Local History and Great Architecture.
Enclaves lucky enough to boast an abundance of historic Craftsman cottages, Mission-style houses, or Victorian charmers in need of a little TLC always have potential to rebound—and popularity is often cyclical when it comes to neighborhoods, says Turco. Areas that have good bones but have languished may be poised for a comeback.

5. Look For Blurring Borders Between Hotspots And Their Less Glamorous Neighbors.
Sometimes the areas surrounding a trendy neighborhood transform simply because of their proximity to the limelight, observes Sonja Selami, CEO and founder of Sonja B. Selami Law Offices in the Boston area. For example, “Massachusetts Avenue used to be the imaginary line between Roxbury and the South End that no one seemed to cross,” but no longer. Development spreads when real estate gets scarce or too pricey for some, and they invest in an area a stone’s throw away from a hotspot, helping to turn it into a promising up-and-comer. Look for hip coffeehouses, upscale groceries, lots of home renovation, and commercial redevelopment around the edges of “star” neighborhoods.

6. Pay Attention to Improving Public Transportation Infrastructure and Major Redevelopment Projects.
Has a new direct rail line to Grand Central or Penn Station just been announced that will make a town more accessible and shorten the potential commute within a year or two? Are finishing touches being added to a waterfront redevelopment project that will spark an influx of business, retail, and visitors? Such changes can turn an afterthought into a must-buy—and those who time their purchase right may be able to get in just before housing prices take off.

7. Scan Hyperlocal News and Culture Websites to Learn Which Neighborhoods Residents Are Buzzing About.
The people who live in an area are the ones in the know about what’s trending, says John Oliveira, a licensed real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Dig into the comments section to see what locals are excited about and what they consider overhyped by the media.

Snowmass Base Village boasts a 26,000-square- foot central lawn. (Photo: Jeremy Swanson)

8. Ask Your Agent for Input
Knowledgeable real estate pros make it their mission to keep up on evolving neighborhoods, says Brody. “Lean on agents who know the local market,” he advises. They’re in tune with what’s going on as far as building and development, neighborhoods in transition, and strong school districts. Explain what you’re looking for, and “let us do the work for you,” he says.

“We keep our eyes and ears on the neighborhoods by walking, biking, and driving around them on a monthly basis,” says Stacey Kelly, a licensed real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Snowmass Village, Colorado. They also keep abreast of stats such as declining numbers of days on the market (DOM) for houses in the area and other important market trends.

Five Fab Up-And-Comers

Trend watchers predict the next “it” spots.

1. Snowmass Base Village
“It’s the next ‘it’ spot here in Colorado. There are two more projects coming to market in 2022, and there are indications that these are going to sell out well before they’re completed in 2024.” —Stacey Kelly, licensed real estate agent, Douglas Elliman, Snowmass Village, Colorado

2. Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District
“At one time it was considered the least desired neighborhood, but now the Uptown Design District has the most potential. It’s my favorite spot and also the chicest. All four of our hotels are located here, and the neighborhood is still growing, with hip restaurants, design shops, vintage spots, and coffee shops—all in walking distance of each other.” —TracyTurco, artist and hotelier, Palm Springs, California

3. Boston’s Seaport Area
“It’s still growing because of all the great dining options, local activities, and the people choosing city living. Spots like Davio’s Italian steakhouse, the Ping-Pong bar SPIN,Tatte Bakery & Café, and Coquette restaurant all make this area vibrant and fun.” —Craig Brody, licensed real estate agent, Douglas Elliman, Boston, Massachusetts

4. Miami’s Little Havana
“We have worked for years on showcasing Little Havana as a great option for businesses, which gravitate toward the spirit of this very real, multidimensional neighborhood. Grab lunch at Doce Provisions, dessert at Azucar, visit Dadewear’s studio, and enjoy drinks and dancing on the legendary Calle Ocho (8th Street) at bars like Casa Tiki, Los Altos, and the world famous, recently reopened Ball & Chain.” —Martin Pinilla II, managing partner, Barlington Group real estate development, Miami, Florida

5. Rhinebeck, New York
“Rhinebeck is really on the map now more than ever. Hudson as well. Wingdale
is also on the rise, which is just minutes from Silo Ridge, the Appalachian Trail, and the Connecticut border. Some of my favorite haunts include Le Petit Bistro in Rhinebeck, The Maker Restaurant in Hudson, and Oscar’s in Wingdale.” —John Oliveira, licensed real estate agent, Douglas Elliman, Westchester/ Hudson Valley, NewYork

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