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Small cities are making big gains this spring with homebuyers.

Case in point, Rapid City, SD—a tiny metro known better for Mt. Rushmore than as a real estate hotbed—premiered at No. 1 on the latest quarterly Wall Street Journal/® Emerging Housing Markets Index.

The index surveys the 300 largest metropolitan areas, seeking to identify which real estate markets are slated to be strong in the months ahead—based on factors such as a robust local economy, low unemployment, high wages, and amenities like short commutes to commercial areas. The index also factors in the local housing market, checking median days on the market, property taxes, and more. (Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)