In previous decades, the trend in residential real estate has simply been about leaving the cities and expanding the suburbs. That led to urban sprawl. America does tend to cater to this type of development since much of the country's real growth occurred after the invention of the automobile. The development of the infrastructure to support this means that Americans have easy access to more remote living situations and they tend to be very willing to drive -- and to invest in their cars -- to make this lifestyle possible.
In recent years, though, there has been a movement often called the "return to the cities." Young adults who grew up in the suburbs are now putting down their own roots in the cities that their parents left, looking for walkable neighborhoods, bars, restaurants, shopping options, jobs and much more. They have, to some degree, rejected their parents' willingness to drive and would rather live in the heart of these urban centers. They often bring gentrification with them, and they're changing the face of cities across the country.
However, some see this return to the cities as little more than a myth. They still see the impact of sprawl. Regardless of what young people want, they're still building new homes and suburbs, just like their parents did.
The reason is often simply the law of supply and demand. City centers only hold so much land; it's one commodity you cannot create more of. As the return to the cities began, factoring in dramatic population growth at an exponential degree, available housing and land quickly filled up. Prices skyrocketed. The demand is vastly higher than the supply, so sprawl is unavoidable.
When working your way through the complexities of the residential real estate market, make sure you know all of the legal steps you need to take to ensure you make wise decisions when buying or selling a property -- no matter where it happens to be.