ANDERSON — As new empty nesters, Dennis and Misty Burton had a three-year plan to save money and build their dream home. But earlier this year, they were presented with an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“We found a house that made us say, this is kind of our dream home that checks all the boxes,” Misty Burton said. “We realized (that) what we could get out of our home now versus even a couple years ago would allow us to get a larger home and have it still be affordable.”

The Burtons’ situation is familiar to many local real estate agents who are helping residents put their homes on the market in ever increasing numbers. Often, those homes are snapped up — sometimes in a matter of days — by buyers eager to get into lower-cost alternatives to pricier homes in nearby Hamilton and Marion counties.

That trend was evident in a recent study by SmartAsset, a financial technology company specializing in personal finance. The study found that, over the last five years, home values in Madison County have increased more than in any other county in the state. The analysis, part of a larger study on places realizing the most value for their property taxes, confirms anecdotal evidence from many local Realtors that the county is well-positioned to take advantage of continued outward growth from the Indianapolis suburbs.

“I think that five years ago, our values were possibly artificially depressed,” said Jada Sparks Green, an agent with Carpenter Realtors in Anderson.

“We were starting from certainly a lower point than a lot of the counties in the state of Indiana. Then you couple that with being next door to one of the most affluent counties in the entire state … what that’s done is positioned us to be an affordable alternative to Hamilton County buyers that have not been able to afford to live in Hamilton County because even the entry-level home prices are not always attainable for new buyers.”

The decision to sell is a significant one for many people, however, and even with a seller’s market, economics is far from the only factor that’s considered. Reinvesting equity into home improvement projects, college funds or other major purchases is among the options many homeowners are contemplating.

“The wealth that has come to people due to the increase in their home values is considerable,” Sparks Green said. “That is allowing people to make different financial decisions, including getting an equity line to do whatever that means for their life. It could mean remodeling and staying.”

Those thinking about selling can take note of several quality-of-life enhancements that local governments have added in recent years. Improvements in city parks and infrastructure upgrades — including recent lane additions in both directions along Interstate 69 as far north as Exit 222 — are giving potential buyers from outside the county additional reasons to consider relocating.

“We are located in a region of Indiana that has many desirable assets,” said Kevin Majeski, a real estate broker based in Anderson. “I’ve seen buyers from other counties who … are finding they can buy a nice house with lower taxes, and it’s still convenient. You can still hop on I-69 and get to that shopping easily.”

Even though their youngest child recently left home, the Burtons didn’t want to downsize right away. Misty, an Anderson native, said the ability to host family gatherings, stay close to her mother and enjoy time with their grandchildren remains important to them. When they came across their ideal house, they had to act quickly.

“When you find the perfect one that’s the perfect fit, it’s hard to make a life-changing decision in a couple hours,” she said, “but that’s the market. I love Hamilton (County) and Pendleton, but the affordability is better here in Anderson. You can have a great home for the price and without the taxes being exorbitant for us.”

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