Cheap homes aren't always best indicator
The caution for Tampa Bay is the workforce. According to a Bradenton, Fla., press blog, the region was still losing jobs through the third quarter of last year, with average wage growth also remaining negative.
One more for the Sunbelt
For the past decade, North Carolina has been the undercover boom state. Over the past decade, its population jumped 18.5 percent, compared with 9.7 percent for the U.S. overall. North Carolina passed New Jersey as the 10th most populous state. Most of that population movement has been to an area called The Triangle, consisting of such cities as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington.
This area experienced a classic bust following an unprecedented boom and is still suffering. To quote HousingPredictor.com, "The Triangle housing market suffered through a tough end to 2010, nearly coming to a standstill as foreclosures pressured home prices more than most had ever thought it would."
This area will boom again, and when things turn around the hot market to look at in The Triangle is Raleigh. During the downturn, Raleigh (No. 43) appeared to be more stable than its neighbors. Again, according to HousingPredictor.com, the housing-price forecast for The Triangle's cities in 2011 is -9.2 percent for Wilmington, -8.9 percent for Charlotte and -8.3 percent for Greensboro, but just -4.3 percent for Raleigh.
My one investment market not in the Sunbelt is the industrial city of Pittsburgh (No. 59), which is undergoing an economic renaissance after years of depopulation following the decline of the steel industry.
Local economists are predicting that over the next decade the city's population will not only stabilize, but increase. The important suburban counties of Washington and Butler have already swung to good growth over the past decade.
Jobs are coming back to the city, which developed a more broad-based economy than many other heartland industrial cities, mostly because of its universities: six four-year institutions, including University of Pittsburgh (strong in healthcare) and Carnegie-Mellon (strong in computer science and robotics).
Tipping-point statistic: in February, average home sales in the five-county Pittsburgh area rose more than 10 percent from the year before, reports RealSTAT of Pittsburgh.
Another key point: Pittsburgh has been a market that major investors and builders have avoided for the past 20 years, so it is underdeveloped.
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade," has been ranked as a top-selling real estate investment book for the Amazon Kindle e-reader.
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