Purpose This study aims to explore the housing demand of urban fringe residents in southwest Ankara. Two subquestions were developed: What are the respondents' perceptions of Ankara city center and which characteristics do they prioritize for living in the urban fringe? Data were collected through a face-to-face household survey, and a hedonic regression model was developed based on responses. Design/methodology/approach Increasing housing demand, lifestyle change and faulty housing policies in Ankara have triggered urban sprawl along fringe areas, which causes several urban problems. Considering that urban sprawl is related to housing demand, it is essential to examine the structure of housing demand and the preference to live near the urban fringe. Findings According to the survey results, security, crime, noise pollution, traffic congestion and parking problems that reduce the welfare of Ankara city center encouraged expansion toward the rural-urban fringe, in addition to low-quality or traditional housing attributes. The urban core became unattractive to the respondents for being insecure, chaotic and down-market. The hedonic model showed that seven variables, all related to housing characteristics, best explain the housing demand in the area. Socioeconomic status and lifestyle were found to be associated with the desire to live on the urban fringe, also indicating the snob effect. Originality/value The authors propose taking domain-specific housing demand patterns in the spatial planning assumptions and housing policies into consideration for a well-governed urban development in Ankara. Making the city center more appealing through rehabilitation should be preferable rather than limiting demand on the urban fringe with a strict intervention in housing supply.