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Beholding the bubble


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

Top 30 markets to watch
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

10 bubble busters -- values expected to decline
Las Vegas What goes up must come down. Fortune lists Las Vegas dead last in its list of 100 metro markets for housing appreciation in the next two years, predicting a two-year combined decrease in housing values of nearly 13 percent. Local Market Monitor reported a 33 percent increase in appreciation between 2003 and 2004, and then a 14 percent increase by the third quarter of 2005, evidence that prices have begun to cool.

"Las Vegas is a very interesting market," Winzer says. "A lot of people moved in, but construction has kept up with the pace. For a long time until recently, I didn't consider it an overpriced market. I don't think the price increases will last. There's really not an inability to produce new homes out there if there is a demand for it."

Sacramento, Calif. We're not quite sure what Sacramento ever did to anyone, but it showed up on just about everyone's list of has-been markets. Winzer's Local Home Value Ratings rates the market as 59 percent overvalued and Burns Housing Cycle Barometer also lists it as overpriced.

"Sacramento, we think, has topped out," says Gollis of The Concord Group. "There is just so much (housing construction) in the pipeline. It's a steady-as-she goes market and has always had consistent growth, but we think the land market has gotten ahead of itself."

Phoenix The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and Phoenix is the largest housing market in the country in terms of new construction. It's been running at 65,000 new units per year, with housing appreciation increasing at rates of nearly 30 percent per year.

"You can't sustain 30 percent increases a year for very long," Winzer says. "Of all the 100 markets we review, we think if you're an investor in Phoenix, you should sell, because vacancy rates are already pretty high." Gollis says his firm has been studying the market carefully and doesn't like what it sees. "It's had an incredibly unusual amount of growth," he says. "The land market has accelerated dramatically and the lot price as percentage of the home price has gone up significantly. We have some concerns about going long in Phoenix."

Boston This one is in Winzer's backyard, his firm is based in Wellesley, Mass., so he sees what is happening there every day.

"Until about a year ago, homes would go on sale and be gone in a week," he says. "Now they're sitting on the market for a year." He doesn't see the prices dropping rapidly here -- or in any market, for that matter -- because while real estate prices escalate rapidly, they drop slowly.

"In markets that are well-overpriced, prices don't really fall because people just won't sell," he says. "The adjustment mechanism is skewed by people's emotions getting involved. People will grit their teeth and hang on as long as they can to get the price they want."

They might not be able to hang on for long. Burns ranks Boston fourth on his list of markets likely looking at a bubble; Winzer's analysis indicates the market is 33 percent overvalued.

-- Posted: March 1, 2006
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