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The changing market


The real estate "boom" is over, experts say. With change comes both risk and opportunity.

Investing strategies for a changing real estate market
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Still, rising interest rates and falling prices mean an investor is more likely to find less-expensive properties, Weiss says, adding that following the fundamentals of real estate helps breed success.

The value line
Seeking value properties is one of those fundamentals. "If you're new to the market, you have to spend a little bit of time, three to six months and maybe a year, shopping for something that's of value," Weiss says. Not quite the hit-while-it's-hot mentality that many investors tend to have in a booming market.

After all, "buy and hold" might be the right idea at a time where the market appears to be cooling off.

"Real estate makes a great investment for the long term," Moren says, pointing out that many people will invest in this area as retirement income.

Although, with a typical real-estate cycle lasting five to seven years, Worzala says, planning to hold a property for two to five years will likely be long enough to make it into the next cycle. That is, of course, if you don't buy in at the start. McClain says "Timing the Real Estate Market" by Robert Campbell can help in reading market cycles.

Finding the right location is crucial to spotting a value, as well. While areas such as Las Vegas and Phoenix have been hot for a while and the market's entry point may be too high for the average individual, other areas of the country have experienced stable growth, McClain says. "I think you're going to see the slow and steady growth in the markets that have been pretty much unchanged, even with the so-called bubble."

Getting down to the micro level of location is important, too. For example, says Worzala, "it's not what's happening in San Diego as a county but what's happening in XYZ neighborhood." As a generally safe bet for novices, she suggests buying an investment property that comes with a captive audience, such as something near a university campus.

Sellers in the hurry
Often lurking near real estate values is a motivated seller -- someone who needs to dispose of property. Divorcing couples and estate heirs are examples.

Realtors can sometimes assist in the hunt for these sellers. Depending on what state laws allow, Multiple Listings Service records may, for instance, include phrases like "divorce direct sale" or "estate direct sale," says Weiss. A more-direct "motivated seller" note is another possibility.

With the U.S. divorce rate hovering near 50 percent, he says, "you've got a huge volume of people who need to sell to satisfy a divorce agreement." In fact, one of his clients is currently buying a home for two-thirds of its value because of a divorce.

"People get nutty during divorces. They're more interested in hurting each other -- cutting off their spouse to save their face." says John T. Reed, publisher of the newsletter "Real Estate Investor's Monthly" and the author of more than 20 real-estate investment books. Not selling the home for market price is one way of hurting the other party.

Estates, meanwhile, often sell at good value because heirs would rather have the money from a sale than a property to care for.

-- Posted: March 1, 2006
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