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Beholding the bubble

 

Does a real estate "bubble" exist in your area? Will it affect your investment in your home?

Going up, down and sideways: Top 30 cities to watch

Ah, prognostication. It's a time-honored profession and one that's hard to beat in terms of job security. In what other profession can you get it wrong half the time and still be considered pretty good at what you do? If "Bob in accounting" had that kind of track record, he'd be out on the street before the second-quarter earnings were revised. But prognosticators can't possibly be faulted for not knowing what hasn't happened yet.

All of this is a fitting introduction to our forecast of the changing real estate market in the U.S. over the next few years -- 10 markets where housing prices and values will continue to remain strong, 10 markets where appreciation will pretty much top out and the 10 markets that are most likely to experience a decline. We talked to experts, studied public and private databases, analyzed market trends and examined the analyses of many others -- often contradictory.

The resulting lists are not intended to be numerical rankings, which would result in lists of markets located almost exclusively in California and Florida.

Nor are they intended to be be-all, end-all lists. In a recent quarterly metro-area, single-family home price report from the National Association of Realtors, a record 72 markets had annual increases in the double digits for median prices for existing, single-family homes. Only six areas had price declines out of 145 metropolitan statistical areas surveyed.

Plus, many reports we reviewed noted strong housing appreciation in the Gulf Coast areas impacted by the 2005 hurricanes. That's completely understandable. When a significant portion of the housing stock has been destroyed, the law of supply and demand dictates that the remaining houses will dramatically increase in value. We chose to leave those markets out because we felt the gains didn't reflect normal market conditions and would likely experience significant, unpredictable shifts during the next two years.

Finally, these are the markets Bankrate feels are most worth watching and are not intended to be lists on which to base your investments or take to the bank in any other sense. As Ingo Winzer, president of Local Market Monitor, a Massachusetts-based real estate analysis firm, says, "I thought that based on previous observations on price cycles, (prices) would have peaked two years ago, and they didn't. There is always some factor that comes up that you hadn't anticipated. It makes forecasting extremely difficult."

Up, down and sideways
Are you wishful or wary about a real estate bubble? Check these market groupings to see if your area makes it onto any of our top 10 lists.
30 housing markets to watch
1. 10 bubble blowers: Appreciation should continue to grow
2. 10 bubble sitters: Home prices might have peaked
3. 10 bubble busters: Values are expected to decline

-- Posted: March 1, 2006
 
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