1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.

Total population (2009): 5,476,241
Median sales price (Q4 2010): $331,100
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10): 8.1%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010): 97,860
Sales volume % change (2009-10): -3.5%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010): 5.7%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010): 1 in 49 units
Walk Score: 68

Washington, D.C., was one of only two markets to see year-over-year gains in the most recent Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index report, which tracks 20 U.S. metro areas nationally. While 11 of the 20 markets tracked posted new index lows in December, home prices in Washington, D.C., rose 4.1 percent year-over-year.

The area’s median home price rose 8.1 percent from fourth-quarter 2009 to fourth-quarter 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors. Though the area’s median home price is almost twice that of the nation’s median, affordability is still fairly high — 78.8 percent of homes in the area were affordable to families making the area’s median income in fourth-quarter 2010, according to an index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.

Washington, D.C., is also a place where it is much less expensive to buy than rent, according to Trulia (see rent vs. buy chart).

Employment is the biggest factor in the strength of the housing market in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Rina Battiata Kunk, associate broker at McEnearney Associates, Realtors.

1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.

Total population (2009): 5,476,241
Median sales price (Q4 2010): $331,100
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10): 8.1%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010): 97,860
Sales volume % change (2009-10): -3.5%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010): 5.7%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010): 1 in 49 units
Walk Score: 68

Washington, D.C., was one of only two markets to see year-over-year gains in the most recent Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index report, which tracks 20 U.S. metro areas nationally. While 11 of the 20 markets tracked posted new index lows in December, home prices in Washington, D.C., rose 4.1 percent year-over-year.

The area’s median home price rose 8.1 percent from fourth-quarter 2009 to fourth-quarter 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors. Though the area’s median home price is almost twice that of the nation’s median, affordability is still fairly high — 78.8 percent of homes in the area were affordable to families making the area’s median income in fourth-quarter 2010, according to an index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.

Washington, D.C., is also a place where it is much less expensive to buy than rent, according to Trulia (see rent vs. buy chart).

Employment is the biggest factor in the strength of the housing market in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Rina Battiata Kunk, associate broker at McEnearney Associates, Realtors.

The area’s 5.7 percent unemployment was one of the lowest rates in the nation in December 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and income fell only slightly from 2008 to 2009.

Not surprisingly, the federal government is the area’s biggest employer, and the capital also attracts legal and lobbying firms, and foreign companies that choose to base their U.S. offices in the capital.

"Federal government (jobs) make this area less prone to the ups and downs of other areas of the country," Kunk said.

Washington, D.C., also has a rising population and a higher-than-average rate of in-migration from other states. According to a migration patterns study by Atlas Van Lines, Washington, D.C., and North Dakota — along with Texas, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Mexico, Alaska, Kentucky and Tennessee — saw more inbound cross-state household relocations than outbound ones in all of 2010.

"Houses in my market … are continuing to sell quickly and very close to list price. We have a shortage of houses and lots and lots of buyers who are waiting to find something to buy," Kunk said.

The market’s delinquency rate fell to 6.8 percent November 2010 compared to the same month in 2009, when the rate stood at 7.6 percent. At the same time, distressed sales have remained fairly steady at about 30 percent of overall sales, according to CoreLogic. Foreclosure activity fell 22 percent in the area in 2010, according to RealtyTrac.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va., photos courtesy of fortherock, Kevin Burkett, Poldavo (Alex), Arlington County, and zaimoku_woodpile.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 5.7% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 2% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -0.8% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $331,100 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 8.1% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) 78.8% 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 4% 3%
Population (2009) 5,476,241  
% ch. population (2008-09) 2.2% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 4.4% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 0.3% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 49 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  -22% 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) 131 135

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…CONTINUED

2. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Total population (2009): 1,123,804
Median sales price (Q4 2010): $126,500
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
14.3%
Sales volume (# units sold year-to-date in Nov. 2010):
14,401
Sales volume % change (Nov. 2010 vs. Nov. 2009):
-12.3%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
8.2%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 332 units
Walk Score:
51

The delinquency rate in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area stayed essentially flat between November 2009 and November 2010, at a relatively low 4.1 percent. The area’s foreclosure activity rate fell 43.5 percent in 2010, to one of the lowest rates in the country. One in 332 housing units received a foreclosure filing last year, compared with 1 in 45 units nationally.

RealtyTrac also included the Buffalo market in its top 10 list of markets for buying and investing, which took into account decreases in REO (bank-owned) inventory, as well as higher discounts for foreclosure properties compared to nonforeclosure properties (see RealtyTrac chart).

"(Lower REO inventory) is important because when you hear people talking about shadow inventory and inventory overhang having an effect on prices, that’s an indicator that inventory is being whittled away," said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac.

Higher foreclosure discounts indicate healthier markets because that means foreclosures are having less of an impact on the sales prices of nonforeclosure properties, according to RealtyTrac.

"When we first started tracking, Las Vegas had one of the lowest foreclosure discounts in the country. When you get beyond a certain percentage of sales that are foreclosure-related, it takes the whole market down with it," Sharga said.

The Buffalo market has one of the fastest-rising median list prices in the country, according to Realtor.com (see Realtor.com chart). Buffalo was also one of the few markets to see its median sales price rise from the year before in both 2009 and 2010, according to NAR’s data. Even so, 85.8 percent of the market’s homes were affordable to households earning the area’s median income in the fourth quarter of 2010.

"The Buffalo market is incredibly brisk, incredibly strong — especially in the urban areas. I am having houses sell over the asking price in one day and certainly in one week. I’ve just had one this past week sell a thousand (dollars) over the asking price in one day. I don’t have enough inventory for the buyers who are out there at certain price points," said Susan Lenahan, an agent at MJ Peterson Real Estate in Buffalo.

"Buffalo is different than the rest of country. We have a very stable market. It didn’t go up dramatically, (and) didn’t go down dramatically."

The Buffalo metro area has its share of federal entities. The area is home to one of seven districts for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a field office for the FBI, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, a field office for the Department of Homeland Security, and the headquarters for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

Buffalo also hosts New York’s largest state university and high-tech jobs in the medical industry, Lenahan said. Yahoo operates a data center on the outskirts of Buffalo, and Verizon is considering a data center in Niagara County.

"Those kinds of business opportunities were not typical in Buffalo before. It’s no longer a Rust Belt town," Lenahan said.

Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., photos courtesy of dougtone(1), dougtone(2), anothersaab, dougtone(3), and scazon.

Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 8.2% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 1.6% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -4.4% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $126,500 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 14.3% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) 85.8% 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 14% 3%
Population (2009) 1,123,804  
% ch. population (2008-09) 0% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 1.3% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) -1.3% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 332 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  -43.5% 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) 102 135

 

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…CONTINUED

 

3. Des Moines, Iowa

Total population (2009): 562,993
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$151,300
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
5.5%
Sales volume (# units sold year-to-date in Nov. 2010):
8,916
Sales volume % change (Nov. 2010 vs. Nov. 2009):
-31%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
6.1%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 79 units
Walk Score:
51

Unemployment in the Des Moines area is at 6.1 percent and projected job growth for the area through the third quarter of 2011 is the second highest of the markets chosen: 3.1 percent.

A high concentration of insurance, finance and technology jobs have fueled growth in the area, according to Brian Wentz, an agent at Burnett Realty in Clive, Iowa. Major employers include Principal Financial Group, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Nationwide Insurance, John Deere, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Meredith Corp., which operates Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

"These positions typically pay well, and have attracted a bright mix of younger, up-and-coming employees — many with newer families — as well as many established employees who relocate here from other markets," Wentz said.

"Additionally, the state of Iowa is experiencing a population shift away from the more rural communities, toward larger communities with more opportunity for education and employment, with Des Moines seeing the biggest benefit," he added.

The Des Moines area saw its population rise 10.1 percent from 2005 to 2009, compared with 6.5 percent at the national level. Single-family building permits issued rose 22 percent between 2009 and 2010, compared with 3 percent nationally, according to NAHB. The area’s median sales price rose 5.5 percent between fourth-quarter 2009 and fourth-quarter 2010.

A conservative approach to finances during the housing boom helped mitigate the effects of the downturn in the area, according to Tyler Osby, a certified mortgage planner at Fairway Independent Mortgage.

"Des Moines is a very ‘steady Eddy’ community," Osby said.

"Even though (we) had some folks buying homes with NINJA (no income, no job, no assets) loans, we still had people being very skeptical of buying because of our conservative culture and still slow appreciation rates.

"I think in other parts of the country buyers were putting homes under contract purely because it was a get-rich-quick solution. When you see home prices rising that quickly, it seems like you’d be passing up a great opportunity to not buy," he said.

"I personally think the biggest issue that other parts of the country are experiencing is the type of loans people were using to get financing. More specifically, the pick-a-payment option-ARM programs. I never did a pick-a-payment loan in Iowa, and I can’t imagine many homeowners in Iowa did."

More foreclosures are likely to come on the market, "but I don’t see (that) pushing home values much lower," he said. The market’s delinquency rate remained essentially flat November 2010 compared to the same month in 2009, at 4.8 percent, according to CoreLogic.

Des Moines, Iowa, photos courtesy of Pat Hawks, cwwycoff1, Eric Kilby, afiler, and The National Guard.

Des Moines, Iowa Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 6.1% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 3.1% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -2.2% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $151,300 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 5.5% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 22% 3%
Population (2009) 562,993  
% ch. population (2008-09) 1.6% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 1.9% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 3.1% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 79 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10) 12.15% 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) 113 135

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4. Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine

Total population (2009): 516,826
Median sales price (Q4 2010): $223,000
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
8.3%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010): 4,607
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): -0.5%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
5.9%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 150 units
Walk Score:
55

Low unemployment, a rising median sales price, high affordability, a jump in building permits, and better-than-average projected job growth added the Portland market to the list. The market’s median sales price rose 8.3 percent between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, to $223,000, according to NAR. Unemployment was at 5.9 percent in December and projected job growth from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011 is 2.8 percent, higher than the nation as a whole (1.9 percent).

"The overall vibe in the area is quite strong. The overall residential market has stabilized," said John Herrigel, a broker at Green Tree Realty in Portland.

"So many baby boomers wanting to retire here or at the very least have a seasonal property in the area is what is driving this market, although I am also seeing more families simply wanting to relocate here for the quality of life."

He added that short sales and foreclosures are definitely a part of the market, but the area’s foreclosure rate has remained relatively low. The Portland market was also included in RealtyTrac’s list of stronger markets — 1 in 150 housing units in the Portland metro area received a foreclosure filing in 2010 compared with 1 in 45 units nationwide.

The area’s major employers include L.L. Bean Inc., Maine Medical Center, UnumProvident Insurance, Hannaford Brothers supermarkets, Banknorth Group, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Fairchild Semiconductor. The area is also home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and an Air National Guard base.

Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine, photos courtesy of AZAdamfitstick(1), fitstick(2), John E. Lester(1), and John E. Lester(2).

Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 5.9% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 2.8% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -0.9% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $223,000 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 8.3% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) 76.1% 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 14% 3%
Population (2009) 516,826  
% ch. population (2008-09) 0.5% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 2.4% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) -1.6% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 150 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  28.3% 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) 109 135

 

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5. Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash.

Total population (2009): 245,649
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$183,000
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
8.9%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010): 3,277
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): -2.3%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
7.8%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 161 units
Walk Score:
44

As with other markets on this list, housing appreciation in the Kennewick area remained modest while the rest of the country was experiencing a boom, said Don Havre, broker at The Real Estate Firm in Kennewick.

"Therefore, we have not experienced a correction in the market similar to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sacramento. We have few foreclosures as compared to the rest of the nation and infrequent short sales. Additionally, I don’t think lenders were overly aggressive making loans to those marginally qualified," Havre said.

The metro area has fairly low unemployment compared to the national rate and was one of three markets on the list to see household income rise between 2008 and 2009. Population and in-migration from other states also rose during that time, each up 4.2 percent. Median sales price in the Kennewick market rose 8.9 percent from fourth-quarter 2009 to fourth-quarter 2010.

The market was one of the few to see its median price rise from the previous year in both 2009 and 2010. The Kennewick metro area also saw a huge year-over-year jump in building permits issued in 2010, up 64 percent compared to 2009. Havre credited these favorable indicators to the area’s diverse economy.

"We are a transportation hub with rail, barge traffic and (a) freeway network. Our economy includes agriculture, with its growing grape/wine market, high-tech companies like Infinia, which manufactures generators powered by the sun’s energy, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, and the Hanford Project. The latter two are funded by the federal government," Havre noted.

Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash., photos courtesy of theslowlane, JudyA, coderdlove, Wildernice, and RJL20.

Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 7.8% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 1.1% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) 4.8% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $183,000 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 8.9% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 64% 3%
Population (2009) 245,649  
% ch. population (2008-09) 4.2% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 4.2% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 1.6% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 161 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  135.2% 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) N/A 135

 

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6. Fargo, N.D.-Minn.

Total population (2009): 199,989
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$148,500
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
6.2%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010):
2,326
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): -21.7%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
4.0%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011):
1 in 7,423 units
Walk Score:
55

In the past two years, as unemployment has shot up to hover between 9 percent and 10 percent, North Dakota has consistently experienced substantially lower unemployment than almost every other state in the nation. In Fargo and Bismarck, unemployment stood at 4 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, in December, compared with 9.1 percent nationally.

Unemployment rose in nearly half of U.S. metros in November and in 31 percent of metros in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Realistically, we’re not going to see the housing market come back until we start seeing job (creation). Unemployment is driving the bulk of foreclosure activity and keeping people from entering the market. Until you see job creation come back and consumer confidence improve, the (market is unlikely to come back)," said RealtyTrac’s Sharga.

North Dakota has benefited from an oil boom in the western part of the state that began around 2005 and has continued to grow since then. 2010 was a "year of record production" in the state, according to Bloomberg.

Even though Fargo and Bismarck are not in the "boom" part of the state, both areas have gained from it.

"The continuing oil boom in western North Dakota — about 110 million barrels in 2010 — not only results in many high-paying jobs in the West; (it) creates jobs for truckers and suppliers, etc., in our Fargo-Moorhead area," said Morris Pyle, a 40-year industry veteran and associate broker at RE/MAX Realty 1 in Fargo.

The Fargo market is home to several oil, agricultural, medical and technology companies, including the business software branch of Microsoft, that provide ready jobs for graduating students from the area’s technical school and three colleges, Pyle added.

As in seven of the other chosen markets, the Fargo area experienced a drop in sales in 2010 compared to 2009. Pyle attributed the decline to the end of the homebuyer tax credit program and stricter lending standards for mortgages in rural areas as well as for self-employed workers, which generally constitute a significant chunk of buyers in the area. However, Pyle expects sales to improve this year.

"The small mortgage loan qualifying changes that appear to be happening, our positive job growth here, and hopefully a continuing … housing affordability, I definitely believe will end with (2011) real estate sales numbers better than 2010," Pyle said.

Fargo, N.D.-Minn., photos courtesy of The National Guard, mattdente(1), mattdente(2), ChrisYunker, and Matthew Bietz.

Fargo, N.D.-Minn. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 4% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 3% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -2.3% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $148,500 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 6.2% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) -6% 3%
Population (2009) 199,989  
% ch. population (2008-09) 2.6% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 6.5% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 0.1% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011) 1 in 7,423 units 1 in 497 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  N/A 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) N/A 135

 

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7. Burlington-South Burlington, Vt.

Total population (2009): 207,688
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$270,600
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
14.4%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010):
1,223
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): -2.7%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
4.5%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 991 units
Walk Score:
54

The median sales price in Burlington-South Burlington jumped 14.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same period a year before, to $270,600.

"The homebuyer tax credit was a big help to spur sales in the first half of the year, and much of my 2009 and 2010 was with first-time homebuyers," said Pike Porter, managing broker at Castle Porter Real Estate in Burlington.

"It was interesting that many of these first-time homebuyers were not buying typical starter homes and condos (at) the $180,000 to $240,000 price point, but many were buying homes over $300,000. I have not seen that before with first-time buyers. (Instead), you’d expect median home sales price to fall with a larger number of less expensive homes sold."

"Our rental market vacancy rate is very low for a number of reasons: older housing stock and tough permitting procedures, the local colleges, (a) popular place to live … with the lake, hiking and skiing nearby. This, in turn, pushes our housing prices up well beyond what other parts of the state pay," Porter added.

The median sales price for residential listings in the state of Vermont in 2010 was $202,000, according to the Northern New England Real Estate Network MLS. Average days on market for listings in Vermont as a whole were 161 last year, compared with 126 in the Burlington-South Burlington metro area, according to the MLS.

Burlington-South Burlington had the second-lowest foreclosure rate in the nation last year among 206 metro areas covered by RealtyTrac. The area also had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation in December, at 4.5 percent.

"Our banking laws are some of the most restrictive in the country, so lenders were less able to promote some of the riskier lending products that poisoned most of the country. Vermont also has restrictive development regulations designed to keep growth at slow and consistent levels," Porter said.

"We did not have large development in the (Burlington metro area), which softened the housing bust and its resulting unemployment."

The Burlington market’s quality of life also makes it stand out. The area has won numerous awards, including being named one of the "Best Cities for the Next Decade" in 2010 by Kiplinger.

"We have great scores on the quality of public education, the environment, cultural aspects and the arts, shopping and higher (education) with four colleges and one university in the Burlington metro region. Burlington has been earning third-party superlative awards for over 20 years consistently. This clearly helps when other areas of our country are in such a severe downturn," said Christopher Hurd, an agent at Akin Associates in Burlington.

Major employers in the Burlington market include the University of Vermont, IBM, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Ben & Jerry’s, Burton Snowboards, Seventh Generation, Bruegger’s Bagels, General Electric Healthcare, and Pizzagalli Construction Co.

Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., photos courtesy of tbplante, Scott McLeodeveryskyline(1), everyskyline(2), and grongar.

Burlington-South Burlington, Vt. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 4.5% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 2% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -3.8% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $270,600 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 14.4% 0.2%
Share of homes affordable for people making a median income (Q2 2010) 75.3% 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 28% 3%
Population (2009) 207,688  
% ch. population (2008-09) -0.6% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 3.5% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) -1% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010) 1 in 991 units 1 in 45 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  100%* 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) N/A 135

*Due to changes in data collection by RealtyTrac, this percentage change may be inflated.

 

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…CONTINUED

 

8. Bloomington-Normal, Ill.

Total population (2009): 167,699
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$167,700
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
14.3%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010):
2,052
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): -9.7%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
6.7%
Foreclosure activity rate (2010):
1 in 1,194 units
Walk Score:
51

The median sales price in the Bloomington-Normal metro area rose 14.3 percent between fourth-quarter 2009 and fourth-quarter 2010, to $167,700. During that time, median price rose every quarter except the third quarter of 2010, when it remained essentially flat from the previous quarter.

Bloomington-Normal’s population grew 14.2 percent from 2005-09, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, the nation’s population grew 6.5 percent during the same period.

"Our population continues to increase because of our location between major metro areas within 45 minutes of Bloomington-Normal," said J.P. Finley, a Re/Max Choice agent in Bloomington. Those areas include Peoria, Champaign and Decatur. The state capital, Springfield, is just over an hour away.

Bloomington-Normal’s major employers include State Farm Insurance, Illinois State University, Country Financial, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing, Nestle USA and the local school district.

"The unemployment rate … is extremely low due to the fact that we have more degree-earning citizens per capita in our local economy. This economy, while having employers such as Mitsubishi, is not solely based in durable goods, but rather in a service-based marketplace. The median family income is $75,550 whereas the state average is about $59,300," Finley said.

The number of units sold fell about 10 percent between 2009 and 2010, though sales volume in dollars fell only 4 percent, creating an "even-keeled" market, Finley said.

"Buyers are watching national trends and they are somewhat skittish about believing in the solid foundation of our own market. It is a stark reminder to all that real estate is local and cannot be judged by what is happening on the coasts or other more erratic markets," he said.

Bloomington-Normal, Ill., photos courtesy of gmtbillings(1), rossaroni(1), rossaroni(2), gmtbillings(2), and roger4336.

Bloomington-Normal, Ill. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 6.7% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 1.5% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) -3.6% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $167,700 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 14.3% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 2% 3%
Population (2009) 167,699  
% ch. population (2008-09) 1.5% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 1.8% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 1.9% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011) 1 in 1,194 units  1 in 497 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  N/A 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) N/A 135

 

Report Summary / Report Methodology / More Data, Charts / Download the full report (PDF)

…CONTINUED

 

9. Bismarck, N.D.

Total population (2009): 106,286
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$168,500
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
4.2%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010):
1,461
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): 4%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
3.9%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011):
1 in 16,082 units
Walk Score:
48

In addition to enjoying one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates, at 3.9 percent, Bismarck received the highest job-growth projection from Moody’s Analytics of the 10 markets.

The economic analysis and forecasting company predicted 3.3 percent job growth in Bismarck between the third quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2011, compared with 1.9 percent nationally. Six of the 10 markets overall had higher job-growth projections than the national average.

"While many local real estate markets around the country have suffered the effects of the national economy, (the) Bismarck-Mandan (metro area) and all of North Dakota have seemed to rise above it all," said Nancy Deichert, executive director for the Bismarck Mandan Board of Realtors.

"In the years that other real estate markets were seeing 20, 30 and 40 percent average sales price increases, the Bismarck-Mandan market stayed a steady course. We did see some particularly good years, but not at the rates other markets did. This has probably helped to keep our market steady and stable."

Area home sales tracked by the Realtor association were up 4 percent from 2009 to 2010, to 1,461 units, and the median sales price also rose 4 percent in 2010, to $167,735, Deichert said. As of mid-February this year, listings in Bismarck spent an average 77 days on market, compared with 135 days nationwide.

"An economy based on agriculture and energy are steady forces, coupled with Bismarck-Mandan being home to two major medical centers serving western North Dakota and, of course, with the state capital here, Bismarck-Mandan is the hub for state government," Deichert said.

In Bismarck, median household income also rose 4 percent from 2008 to 2009, the latest figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s compared with a 2.9 percent decline in median income nationwide.

That’s important to note because even in areas with low unemployment, potential buyers could be seeing declines in income, said Sam Khater, senior economist at CoreLogic.

"There is a lot of underemployment and quite a bit of the job growth that’s happening is in the lower wage levels. What little job growth we’re having is at the expense of incomes, especially when you adjust for government (jobs)," Khater said.

Bismarck, N.D., photos courtesy of Justin Brockie, dobak, sirrobot, and puroticorico.

Bismarck, N.D. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 3.9% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 3.3% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) 4% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $163,600 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 4.2% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) 31% 3%
Population (2009) 106,286  
% ch. population (2008-09) 1.3% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 2.8% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 3.7% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011)* 1 in 16,082 units  1 in 497 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  N/A 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) 77 135

*Metro area is composed of Burleigh and Morton counties. Only Morton County foreclosure rate available.

 

Report Summary / Report Methodology / More Data, Charts / Download the full report (PDF)

…CONTINUED

 

10. Elmira, N.Y.

Total population (2009): 88,331
Median sales price (Q4 2010):
$101,100
Median sales price % change (Q4 ’09-Q4 ’10):
16.5%
Sales volume (# units sold in 2010):
627
Sales volume % change (
2009-10): 7.7%
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010):
8%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011):
1 in 13,983 units
Walk Score:
57

The Elmira market saw the biggest jump in price appreciation between fourth-quarter 2009 and fourth-quarter 2010 of 152 metro areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors: up 16.5 percent, to $101,100. In spite of the climb, the vast majority of homes, 87.5 percent, remain affordable to those who make the area’s median income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Elmira’s median household income rose 5.1 percent between 2008 and 2009 — the biggest rise among the 10 markets. The number of homes sold in the area increased 7.7 percent in 2010, while most markets saw their sales decrease.

Elmira is reaping rewards from gas exploration just across the state border in Pennsylvania, said Matthew Lynough, an agent at Keller Williams Realty Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

"The local businesses are benefiting from the large presence of the gas industry. Hospitality and restaurants, along with retailers, are noticing increased sales. Small manufacturers are also receiving contracts for production equipment to assist in drilling," Lynough said.

"There is also a strong aviation presence here with (aviation manufacturers) Sikorsky and Schwitzer located in our airport corporate park and Lockheed-Martin just 30 miles away."

What the data can’t predict

An important indicator that data gatherers have a hard time pinning down is consumer confidence and behavior, CoreLogic’s Khater said. Consumer behavior is a major factor in strategic default, he said.

"Are they confident about living in their home? (Strategic default) is a choice. It might not feel like a choice, but that’s how it’s defined: You can afford to keep paying but you can choose not to. Unless you’re actually talking to each and every person, you can’t determine how many strategic defaulters there are out there," Khater said.

Elmira, N.Y., photos courtesy of dougtone(1), dougtone(2), dougtone(3), dougtone(4), and dougtone(5).

Elmira, N.Y. Metro U.S.
Unemployment rate (Dec. 2010) 8% 9.1%
1-yr. forecasted job growth (Q3 ’10-Q3 ’11) 1.1% 1.9%
% ch. median household income (2008-09) 5.1% -2.9%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $101,100 $170,600
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) 16.5% 0.2%
% homes affordable at median income (Q3 ’10)* 87.5% 73.9%
% ch. single-family bldg. permits issued (2009-10) -8% 3%
Population (2009) 88,331  
% ch. population (2008-09) 0.6% 1%
% population lived in other state 1 yr. ago (2009) 3.3% 2.3%
% ch. occupied units (2008-09) 3.9% 0.6%
Foreclosure activity rate (Jan. 2011) 1 in 13,983 units  1 in 497 units
% ch. foreclosure activity (2009-10)  N/A 1.7%
Avg. days on market (as of Feb. 13, 2011) N/A 135

VIEW THE REPORT SUMMARY

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DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT (PDF)

 

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