Forbes.com – June 22, 2009
Best Cities To Buy A Home
Sarah Lynch, 06.22.09, 5:58 PM ET
It’s no sellers market. But by some measures, things are looking up in Los Angeles. Though the area is one of the worst-hit of the country’s crippled housing markets, those with listed properties in relatively solid areas are beginning to see consistent bites.
This month, “one of my clients wrote an offer on a home that had 20 offers,” saysMonique Carrabba, 35, an agent with Keller Williams Hollywood Hills, of a two-bedroom, one bathroom duplex located in Picfair Village, part of a neighborhood that borders La Brea and Venice. “I mean, that’s just nuts. And even though we came a hundred over asking price, we still didn’t get it.” The duplex was listed at $450,000 and is in escrow at about $150,000 over the original asking the price.
While the majority of the nation’s housing markets are still working toward a bottom, some cities are boasting fundamentals that make them good places to buy a home now. In addition to Los Angeles, these include Denver, Boston, Phoenix and San Diego.
Behind The Numbers
To determine which cities feature the best real estate deals, we looked at three sets of data in the March 2009 RPX Monthly Housing Market Report, distributed by Radar Logic Incorporated, a New York-based derivatives firm. It looks at the market fundamentals in the country’s 25 most populated metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs or metros), geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget used by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics. First, we examined the number of ZIP codes with 25% of the area’s sales to determine those in which activity is most evenly distributed. Next, we examined increase and decrease in price per square footage to determine where market value is the highest. Last, we looked at transaction rates in each city to determine where the housing markets are most active. We scored each city by category, and then combined the scores to determine the final ranking.
Denver tops the list. It had 25% of its property sales occur within approximately 25% of the city’s ZIP codes. This means sales in various parts of the city were fairly evenly distributed, showing proportionate activity. The further a city deviates from the 25% mark, the less evenly distributed the market is in that city, and thus the lower that city ranks.
“Denver scores very well in terms of being able to bring people into a stable housing market,” says Christopher Cornell, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com says. “It has better growth potential than most cities today.”
Cornell attributes Denver’s stability to its main industries–energy and technology–that he says aren’t likely to decline simultaneously. He also says its housing market didn’t grow as much as in other parts of the country over the last five years. “Little boom, little bust,” he says.
Price per square foot increased most in Boston, at 6%, showing an overall boost in value. The greatest declines were in Washington, D.C., at 7.5%, and in Las Vegas, at 4.3%.
he last data set we analyzed were percentages of increased or decreased transaction counts in March 2009 as opposed to March 2008. Transactions, coupled with relative health and value, are key indicators of a market worthy of investment. Los Angeles ranked first in this category, with a 32.5% increase in the number of transactions. Las Vegas ranked last with a 55.3% decline.
Of course, sustained improvement is dependent in part on the job market. Though increased property sales in Phoenix during the first half of 2009 suggest investors are returning, for example, the housing market hasn’t bottomed out yet and most likely won’t until the employment picture improves. Moody’s Economy.com expects unemployment in Phoenix to bottom out in the 2nd quarter of 2010. The job outlook there is expected to improve in 2011.
That, however, could change.
Even with home values down–80% of the market is distressed sales, says Dan DeNuccio, a real estate broker with Prudential Americana Group in Las Vegas. He calls the market “robust.”
“We have a large number of investors in Vegas right now, a lot of cash investors, a lot of foreign investors,” he says. “And what’s happened here is a lot of those first-time homebuyers that were excluded from the market because of the price range are now in the market and taking advantage of the tax credit,” which the Obama administration ushered in in February.
National Public Radio – October 21, 2008
‘Greening’ up homes for sale
Everything seems to be going “green” these days, and now real estate brokers are joining the trend. Sustainability reporter Sarah Gardner takes an inside look at the growing group of “EcoBrokers.”
Single family home with eco-friendly features for sale in Culver City, Calif., through EcoBroker Monique Carrabba (www.ecobroker.com)
TEXT OF STORY
Kai Ryssdal: The residential real estate forecast we all know about. Generally lousy, continuing lousy for the foreseeable future. Which has realtors doing anything they can to drum up sales. Our sustainability reporter Sarah Gardner usually tosses her junk mail faster than you can say recycle. But a glossy ad not too long ago from a local real estate agent caught her eye. The agent described herself as an EcoBroker. So, Sarah set out to discover exactly what that means.
Sarah Gardner: Monique Carrabba has her work cut out for her today. She’s trying to sell an 1,800- square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home for $1 million. Make that $999,000 to be exact. She’s getting mostly looky-loos.
Monique Carrabba: Hey, thanks for coming by!
Carrabba is a certified EcoBroker. That’s a professional designation she earned through a Colorado-based company called EcoBroker International. To earn that green distinction,Carrabba paid $395 for three days of course work and testing. She boned up on everything from asbestos to solar panels to so-called “green mortgages.” Carrabbahopes it’ll give her an edge. It already helped her get this listing — an eco-friendly renovation in Culver City, a small town surrounded by Los Angeles.
Carrabba: The water heater is an on-demand water heater, the roof is a 50-year recycled rubber roof made out of recycled tires.
The house’s eco-minded investor is flipping the property after injecting over $300,000 into an ambitious remodel. In went energy-efficient air, heat, windows and appliances, insulated water pipes, CFL lighting, formaldehyde-free cabinets and more.
Carrabba: I’ve had people at my listings say, “Green schmeen, who cares how ecologically friendly this place is?” to people that are embracing it and just can’t get enough of it.
Former Department of Energy official John Beldock founded EcoBroker six years ago. He says 4,200 real estate agents have passed his program. Beldock describes them as pioneers who are changing the industry. Might be. The National Association of Realtors will soon offer its own green certification as well. But don’t expect PhD’s in environmental science.
John Beldock: They know that they’re really green ambassadors.
Beldock says that means an EcoBroker may not know which solar panels a client should buy but can refer the buyer to someone who does. And Beldock says don’t expect an EcoBroker to independently give a home a green rating.
Beldock: We don’t really want the real estate professional to feel like he or she has to give the house a scorecard.
Jim Nicolow is an architect and a blogger for Marketplace’s “Greenwash Brigade.” He says the EcoBroker program is a step forward for environmentalism, but he’d sure like somebody to start defining what an “eco-friendly” home really is.
Jim Nicolow: If you have a Hummer that has operable windows and bamboo paneling is it green or is it still a largely inefficient vehicle and I think the same holds true for housing.
Nicolow suggests a green home should really mean an energy-efficient home. But the prospect of saving on utility bills in the future doesn’t always convince home buyers to pay extra now. Greg Sears and his wife checked out the Culver City house on a recent Sunday.
Greg Sears:Cause things are already so expensive. You know we’re first time home buyers and it’s $700, $800,000 to get a starter house, which is ridiculous.
EcoBroker’s Beldock says the “green premium” has dropped dramatically in many markets. A good thing too. It’s tougher to get a loan on any house these days, green or otherwise.
In Los Angeles, I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.