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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
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Los Angeles The City of Angels has been described as the poster child for how a lack of new housing near employment centers can hurt an economy. Affordable housing has been an issue in the market for years. It's ranked as one of the least affordable places in the country to live, with housing prices consuming 91 percent of income, according to statistics from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The median price of an existing single-family home was $568,000 at the end of 2005, the National Association of Realtors reports. Plus, job growth is virtually flat. Together, it's cause for real estate market consultant Gollis to predict that the prices for California coastal markets are topping out in single-family homes. Fortune predicts a drop-off of nearly 8 percent in housing prices in the next two years, putting it in 95th out of 100 markets for growth.

Naples, Fla. At 72 percent, Naples is No. 2 on Local Market Monitor's list of overvalued markets in the country (Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, Calif., is No. 1 at 86 percent overvalued). In actual pricing, it outpaces other Florida markets by a good $100,000 margin. Plus, there is an abundance of more affordably priced options for buyers within a short driving distance. It is no understatement that entire cities are being built nearby. "The markets that are the most overvalued are the ones at greatest risk of a substantial correction," Winzer says. "Naples is at the top of that."

Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rapid, dramatic price increases over the past two years -- and an extraordinary amount of new products being built in the condo market -- is the reason many real estate market analysts think this market just can't sustain much more in terms of price increases. The market probably won't decline, they say, because the region remains attractive to South American and European buyers, but there just isn't sufficient demand to absorb the entire available inventory. Plus, according to NAR research, affordability is an issue in the market, calling the home price to income ratio "unfavorable."

Edison and Newark, N.J. As far as the real estate analysts are concerned, these two cities have pretty big targets on them for a decline in appreciation. John Burns Real Estate Consulting ranks Edison seventh -- ahead of Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C., -- as a market facing a potential housing bubble. It gives Newark an F on its local market grading scale, attributable largely to the loss of several thousand jobs and the highest housing-cost-to-income percentage in the state's metro markets. Fortune predicts a very modest 1.2 percent gain in housing appreciation this year for Edison that would be wiped out in 2007 by a loss of 2.9 percent. The situation is similar in Newark, where Fortune suggests a 1.5 percent increase this year will be canceled out by a 1.8 percent loss the following year.

Nassau/Suffolk, N.Y. Otherwise known as Long Island, this market is No. 2 in the country on real estate consultant John Burns' list of locations facing a potential housing bubble. (Modesto, Calif., has the top spot.) Similarly, Fortune predicts a loss of about 6 percent in housing values over the next two years.

-- Posted: March 1, 2006
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