Emerging Trends in Real Estate®: US and Canada

Trends that shaped the 2020 outlook

Low taxes, economic diversity and a high quality of life are among the driving forces behind the strong showing of seven US cities in this year’s top ten markets for real estate investors and developers.

Trends are dynamic. Change happens subtly.

That is why our annual examination of Emerging Trends in Real Estate is such an important exercise. It is when change is so subtle that it may escape notice, and why we must pay careful attention. Our discussion of trends keeps in mind that the world, the economy and the real estate business are subject to other kinds of influence over time.­

In its 41st year, Emerging Trends in Real Estate® is one of the most highly regarded annual industry outlooks for the real estate and land use industry. It includes interviews and survey responses from more than 2,200 leading real estate experts, including investors, fund managers, developers, property companies, lenders, brokers, advisers and consultants.

Even though we are late in the expansion cycle, volatility in global financial markets, coupled with global geopolitical instability continues to drive investors towards US real estate. The asset class remains desirable as investors seek predictable cash flows from tangible investments.”

Mitch Roschelle
PwC Partner and Business Development Leader

Top Five markets to watch in 2020


Austin is number one, rising from sixth place to first in overall real estate prospects and from fourth to first place in local expectation of investor demand in 2020. In identifying Austin as a top-tier 18-hour city several years ago, our analysis considered many salient features: its slogan (“Keep Austin Weird”), its deep pool of talent, its unique and popular lifestyle and ambitious commitment to business and real estate expansion.


Ranked number two overall, Raleigh-Durham has been seeing impressive investment in its suburban office and multifamily sectors. Moreover, this metro market topped the rankings for homebuilding prospects. The region’s concentration of educational institutions—Duke University, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and several smaller colleges—coupled with the Research Triangle Park, has branded the area as a technology mecca, and it now has more than 89,000 tech jobs.


Considered a leading 18-hour city, Nashville to number three overall in real estate prospects (it came fifth last year), although it slipped from first to fourth place in the homebuilding outlook. The local mood is ebullient, with expectations strong for continued investment and development.


Charlotte also has moved up in our survey rankings, placing fourth overall (up from last year’s ninth place) and second in homebuilding prospects (up from fourth). It is no surprise that one real estate investment trust (REIT) executive interviewed listed Charlotte as one of five cities to be in “if you were starting a company with a clean slate.” Charlotte is attracting technology and manufacturing firms, as it continues to diversify its economy beyond the banking sector that dominated over the past 20 years.


Although Boston is a comparatively small metro market (it has a population of 4.9 million, ranking 10th among U.S. MSAs (0.6% of total)), it often punches above its weight in terms of economic performance and real estate vitality. It ranks a strong sixth place in real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and is largely responsible for Massachusetts’s top-tier ranking on the gross state product map.

Another safe observation is that space users and capital sources will demonstrate increasingly demanding expectations for technological sophistication...As deliveries to the front lobby have picked up speed, residents expect package handling to be flawless. 'Tech without the mystery' will only become more important over time.

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Byron Carlock, Jr.

Real Estate Leader, PwC US

Mitch Roschelle

Partner and Business Development Leader, PwC US

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