Thursday, August 17, 2006

Picking and Choosing the Next Real Estate Boom Area

Everyone's looking for the next real estate rush -- the place where people will be able to buy at $100,000 and sell for $200,000 in six months. So I get emails about whether one town is a better place to buy over another. Is it time to buy or sell waterfront property? Is land the next boom market for real estate?

The answer, simply, to all the above is "yes." Yes, if all the parameters that support a growing economy are in place and about to move forward. Yes, if the investment meets your goals on your budget at this time. Yes, if you have the proper financing in place to create a positive cash flow or find a property that is moving up in value at a clip higher than inflation.

Real estate, unlike stocks or bonds, is a good investment any time … you just have to know where to buy. Like the old adage goes: location, location, location. The location is key and depends on the economic picture of that location at the time. Wouldn't you have loved to have bought a house in the D.C. market, for instance, seven years ago? Any property would have done you proud. The whole market grew at 153 percent in that period of time. Thus, location and timing were key, all based on the advent of the latest economic boom, coupled with an affordable, but low supply of adequate housing.

So where can you find that formula now? Start looking at smaller markets where federal spending or private investing is moving upward. For the start-up investor, look around your state first. And then use the following points as a guide on whether it's a good time to buy:
Low housing prices. Where do the prices stand as compared to the potential for rental income?

If a rental unit can be purchased so that the monthly rent covers the mortgage and tax payments, then this makes for a good start on the investment road. While many would-be investors look at the asset growth of an investment, they should really be looking at the net rental income instead. If you can make 8 to 12 percent annual return on the value of a home in rental income, that is a good investment indeed.

To find housing prices, start with a web search such as, "springfield virginia housing prices," or whatever community you're researching.

Stable economy. What's happening on the state and local basis. Again, begin your search by finding the state/local economic development authority. You'll be looking for economic growth as compared to the U.S. economy and how it's headed as compared to the past few years. Look for economic forecasts, charts, employment/unemployment data, etc. Pour over these with a fine tooth comb to find out if the community where you want to invest is moving upward, headed down, etc.

New jobs/plants/federal spending planned. In the above searches for the current economic picture, look for what's happening as far as growth. Are new corporations moving in to the market? Are current companies expanding their facilities? Are there job cuts or job growth? If you see indications that growth is on the way, get your check book out and start looking for an investor mortgage. But make sure you check one more thing.

Rental vacancy rate. Okay, the housing prices are within your budget and the economy is stable; heck, it's even about to grow. Great. How's the rental inventory? Is there a lot of it? Is there too much of it? The vacancy rate let's you know how long your property will be on the market and how much rental income you'll be able to pull in each month. Will you have a positive or negative cash flow each month?

Once you have these points in your plan covered, you're now ready to start looking at property. Get together your real estate team (agent, lender, insurance agent, contractor, etc.) and hit the road to building wealth.

Published: July 21, 2006