"We were looking at Columbia because of the school district and the planned community. Racial diversity we consider a plus," said Mark Calvin, a computer scientist who moved with his wife, Diana Moore, and their two daughters, ages 9 and 13, to a 23-year-old townhouse in Owen Brown in July.
The family moved from Virginia last winter and rented a home in Columbia for six months. They also heard some warnings about certain parts of the planned town.
"We had both eyes wide open," said Moore, a school nurse. After seeing a lot of houses, the family found its eventual home one rainy Friday.
"I'd been looking for a long time and I really liked the idea of the lake [Elkhorn]," Moore said. "We called the Realtor that afternoon and put in an offer [at asking price]," which was accepted.
Young marrieds Greg and Becky Dye were renting in Columbia, too, and bought a 27-year-old home in Long Reach last summer.
"River Hill never even crossed my mind. We love nature, the parks, trails, lakes. We love it," Becky Dye said.
Greg Dye said the couple spent a week working with an agent, but each time they saw a house they liked, "we'd go back and it was gone." Finally, they saw the house in Phelps Luck in Long Reach village and, despite an earlier offer, "we upped our price and they went with us."
Christine and Christopher Elrod and their two children experienced the full change in fortunes. They bought a Long Reach townhouse four years ago and just sold it - at a price $35,000 higher than they paid.
"I was just amazed that we had that many people come through our house," Christine Elrod said about the 14 potential buyers who showed up on the first two days it was listed. They got three offers the first day and took one with conventional financing at $1,100 more than their asking price.
And what of those who doubt whether Columbia's schools, while good, are still top-drawer?
"I'm an ex-teacher," said Melvina Brown, another experienced real estate agent. "What they have to do is maintain a contact with teachers and follow their children's progress. It doesn't matter where they live. You just have to be vigilant."