The horror show of America’s residential real estate market just keeps getting scarier, what with the sub-prime mortgage crisis threatening to slash demand for homes while the inventory of unsold properties continues to pile up. It’s enough to send any prudent investor fleeing to the relative sanity of, say, the stock market.
Don’t. Instead, get ready for the bounce-back. The oldest rule of investing dictates that you buy low and sell high. Real-estate buyers aren’t at the gate, however, because most local markets have yet to hit bottom. In fact, most cities won’t do so for another year.
But Business 2.0, working with Moody’s Economy.com, has unearthed 10 major metropolitan areas that are bucking the national housing trend. By the beginning of next year, these markets should be coming back to life — and in our exclusive rankings, we’ve projected the house-price appreciation these cities will enjoy during 2008 and 2009. The gains may seem modest — they range from about 4 to 7 percent — but remember, in the midst of the current housing meltdown, any gain at all constitutes a minor miracle.
What our 10 cities have in common is that they’re relatively affordable. They missed out on the housing bubble, yet they still enjoy steady employment and income growth. Not surprisingly, five of the 10 are state capitals with hefty public payrolls. Even more telling, with the exception of the three Texas metros ( Austin, Dallas, and Houston), the big national builders didn’t make significant incursions into these markets.
“These cities didn’t draw in speculators or investment the way the coastal markets did,. says Celia Chen, the Economy.com economist who crunched our numbers.” “House prices in these places weren’t untethered from the underlying fundamentals.” These underappreciated — but soon-to appreciate — housing markets offer real opportunities to the savvy investor.
Projected median sales prices for single-family homes:
Q1 2008: $177,750; Q4 2009: $187,640; Growth: 5.6 percent
Half a million dollars probably won’t buy you a home in one of Atlanta‘s Martha Stewart-style neighborhoods. And that’s a good thing, argues Dan Forsman, CEO of Prudential Atlanta. Forsman says the smart money here will move upmarket, in exactly the opposite direction of where it will go in New Orleans. A contrarian by nature, he sees the biggest arbitrage in properties priced at $750,000 in high-end communities northeast of the city — suburbs like Druid Hills, Duluth, Johns Creek, and Suwanee. The construction cost of a home in those pockets is $260 a square foot; right now, you can pick one off for $180.
Boding well for the local economy, “Hotlanta” boasts one of the highest rates of job growth in so-called creative-class occupations in the country. Why? It’s the top destination in America for young professionals, a transportation hub ( Atlanta‘s airport is the busiest in the world), and a place where most Fortune 500 companies maintain a regional presence. Projections by researchers at the U.S. Census Bureau and Virginia Tech place Atlanta at the center of a “megapolitan” cluster of urban sprawl that will develop over the next quarter-century, encompassing 7 million people.
This points to another niche real estate play: As buildable land around the city disappears, downtown neighborhoods on the brink of transformation are ripe for investment.
To see all ten cities, and the entire article, please click here.