Nestled along the banks of the St. Joseph River, Elkhart, Indiana is an unassuming city about two hours east of Chicago. Like many other American cities, it has a Walmart, several fast-food restaurants, and a quaint downtown. But the casual observer might be surprised to learn that Elkhart has one of the hottest housing markets in the country. So how does a working-class, northern Indiana city of 52,000 become a real estate gold mine?
Jobs, Jobs and more Jobs
Elkhart is far removed from the glitz and glamour of Chicago, but the people in Elkhart aren’t there to drink lattes, they’re there to make money. In September 2021, Elkhart had an unemployment rate of just 2.4 percent, earning it one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Some companies are even struggling to find workers.
And although the pandemic has affected the labor market, Elkhart had been struggling to fill job openings even before the pandemic. Indeed, Elkhart and Elkhart County have had trouble keeping up with the growth they’ve experienced.
King of RV Manufacturing
One reason that Elkhart’s job market is so strong is that the city happens to be the recreational vehicle capital of the world. Drive down any street in Elkhart and you’re likely to come across an RV plant. But it isn’t just RV manufacturing that makes the job market so strong. There are numerous manufacturing jobs and companies in the city and county, many with starting wages of $20 or more.
Low Cost of Living
Another reason that Elkhart has one of the hottest housing markets in the country is that the cost of living is low in the city. The average cost of a single-family home in Elkhart is around $200,000, and many can be had for less. You can also find multi-family properties to invest in that are readily available and priced lower than what you’d find in other parts of the country.
The cost of things such as housing, health care, and transportation are also well below what you’d find in the rest of the country. In fact, Elkhart ranks lower than the rest of the country in all cost-of-living metrics.
Good Quality of Life
As you might expect of a smaller city, Elkhart has a small-town feel. It’s still the kind of place where people are willing to pull over and help someone with a flat tire. Elkhart even calls itself the “City with a Heart” due to its strong community ties. The air quality is good and traffic is still manageable in most areas, despite the growth the area has seen.
Being that Elkhart is only about 20 miles from the University of Notre Dame, it’s a given that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are popular in the area. On game days for the football team, it’s not uncommon for hotels in the area to be filled to capacity. You might experience heavy traffic around the football stadium, but technically you’re not in Elkhart.
Elkhart’s housing market is also hot because the city is a good place for families. Elkhart County has one of the highest concentrations of top-ranked public schools in Indiana. And on Friday nights, it’s not unusual for parents and other members of the community to pack high school gyms and football fields in support of their kids and their local school teams.
There are also educational and fun family activities to take part in like visiting the Hall of Heroes Super Hero Museum or checking out Linton’s Enchanted Gardens. Of course, no city would be fit to call itself the RV capital of the world without an RV museum. The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum is another fun spot for families.
It’d be hard to guess that Elkhart is one of the hottest housing markets in the country just from driving through it, but it turns out the city has a lot going for it. There are relatively good-paying jobs that are plentiful, and the city overall has a low cost of living. The area also has good schools and a quality of life that many families find enjoyable. It’s not the most exciting city in the world, but it’s pretty clear why people are putting down roots in Elkhart.