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These are the 5 hottest real estate markets in the U.S.

A midsize town in Georgia about 75 minutes by car from Atlanta is the nation's hottest real estate market, as a tide of renters flee pricey cities in search of homes in more affordable places.

That's the takeaway from a new Bankrate analysis of nearly 200 housing markets around the country. The personal finance website ranked the top most attractive and active housing markets and found that Gainesville, Georgia, was No.1. Bankrate based its ranking on factors such as which cities had the strongest job growth, fastest population growth, largest home value appreciation, lowest unemployment rate and highest rate of homes for sale.

Rounding out the top five real estate markets were Knoxville, Tennessee; Fort Myers, Florida; Sarasota, Florida; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Those cities have become particularly attractive to house hunters who have been priced out of expensive metros, said Bankrate analyst Jeff Ostrowski.

"The momentum in the housing market has shifted to the Sun Belt, and especially to Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida," Ostrowski said in the analysis. "While many parts of the U.S. are experiencing price declines, home values have held steady in the Southeast."

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Bankrate said Gainesville ranked No. 1 because homes in the area have appreciated 40% in one year, higher than any other location in the analysis. Jobs and population in the city grew 15%, Bankrate said, citing data from the U.S. Census and U.S. Labor Department. 

Home prices in Gainesville remain relatively affordable. The city's median home price is $375,000, compared to the national median of $430,000, according to 

Downtown Gainesville, Georgia. Tricia Cumiskey/Fresh Take Georgia

A shortage of homes for sale, high prices and a surge in mortgage rates this year has dented sales this spring. Higher prices have created "a very distorted housing market" that isn't helping buyers or sellers, said economist Peter Boockvar.

"Bottom line — sales of existing homes are near 12-year lows both because of the lack of inventory, but in turn that is helping to maintain the 40% rise in home prices over the past few years," Boockvar said in a research note. "In the face of a doubling of mortgage rates, that then creates the affordability problem for first-time buyers." 

Housing sales in Fort Myers have blossomed in part because people from Boston, Chicago, Miami and New York City are relocating in search of more affordable options, said Mike Darda, team principal real estate brokerage Compass. The median home sales price in Fort Myers hit $395,000, according to Redfin

Sarasota meanwhile has grown into a desirable market because more people are moving there and competing to live in newly built condominiums near the waterfront, one local real estate expert said.  

"An increased and consistent stream of tourism has driven this growth, with the strongest demand for real estate coming from pre-retirees who are looking for a second home and retirees who are moving to Sarasota permanently," Chelsa Vahtomin, a senior sales executive at Coldwell Banker, told CBS MoneyWatch. 

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