The year 2005 was a good time to be a real estate agent. Financing was easy as pie for customers to obtain, mortgage rates were at record lows, inventory was churning at break-neck speed, and houses were fetching top dollar in a hungry investors’ market. It was not just a good time to be a real estate agent, but a good time to be a homeowner as well. Homeowners were taking out $750 billion in equity from their purchases (up from $106 billion a decade earlier!) to use largely on home improvements, personal consumption, and credit card debt. And we aren’t talking only about median or average homes, the national luxury home market was booming as well.
Then, in 2008, the subprime mortgage industry imploded. Here are a few sobering facts about that dismal time:
- The number of homes owned plummeted to a 27-year low.
- More than 5 million Americans were two or more months behind on their mortgage payments.
- By the end of 2010, over 23% of homeowners owed more on their homes than they were worth.
- Housing prices fell by double digits.
- Heavy-hit markets in Florida and Arizona had just under 20% of their real estate stock sitting vacant.
- New home sales dropped 80% from their 2005 high.
It was a depressing time to be a real estate agent!
Since the collapse, however, the economy has stabilized, lending restrictions are loosening, and consumer confidence has returned. A number of markets are now part of a housing market resurgence, making it a good time to be a real estate agent again. Of course, every market is different. Smart Asset conducted a study to identify the parts of the country that bounced back the best following the crash and represent the modern renaissance of real estate.
Here are five wonderful markets to be a Realtor in a post-real-estate-bubble world:
1. Salem, Oregon
Salem, OR has seen real estate prices climb double-digits since the market plummeted. From the fourth quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015, sales prices went up 17.5 percent, for instance. With 151 sales per agent each year, Salem is a hot spot for Realtors. There are many reasons to pick up and head to Salem these days, say locals. You can think of it as a “low-calorie Washington D.C.” with its architecture, cherry blossom trees, and downtown vibe. Quirky shops? Excellent restaurants? Antiques? You’ll find them all here, very similar to the real estate market in Louisville, Ky. From world class waterfall hikes and old school carousels, to scenic wineries and an hour’s drive to the Pacific Ocean, it’s easy to fall in-love with this part of Oregon and never want to leave.
2. Reno, Nevada
Reno continues to see a healthy level of growth with the average Realtor making an annual salary over $67,000, home prices rising nearly 10% year-over-year, and new builds up more than 20%. Northern Nevada is seeing amazing economic growth right now, with 100 major employers recently relocating to the area and more than 50,000 new jobs expected in the coming years. Most of these jobs will be in high-end manufacturing — with thousands of positions available at a new Tesla factory, for starters. Reno is quickly becoming a high-end luxury market, with less than a third of the new builds valued below $300,000. In their downtime, residents enjoy paddling down the Truckee River, a glut of local cultural festivals, a cool automobile museum, tons of local art, casinos, massive balloon races, and over 300 days of sunshine a year. Reno is called “the biggest little city in the world” for good reason.
3. Denver, CO
Colorado real estate agents make more than $75,000 a year — the highest median salary. Agents make far fewer sales than most markets (just 14), but real estate prices are up so high, it doesn’t matter. Investment interest in “ski country” is rampant, but this tight market has recently loosened up by almost 25 percent. Though there has been some concerns that Millennial buyers will be priced out of the ownership market and forced to rent or move elsewhere, Smart Asset rated Denver one of the “most stable real estate markets.” The rating was based on the overall home price growth rate since 1991 and the average odds that a homeowner would see significant price declines a decade after buying. Denver is reportedly an exciting place to live with their high quality sports teams, vibrant nightlife, and Western comfort food.
4. Springfield, IL
What it lacks in double-digit growth percentage change (up just 5%), Springfield makes up for in high sales per agent and high agent salary (exceeding $55,000). Buyer demand has driven sales above 78,000 for the Springfield metro in six months’ time, according to Illinois Realtors. Homes tend to sit on the market for a month and a half, but this timeframe has been shrinking. Movoto lists a number of reasons one may want to relocate to Springfield. Architecture lovers will find a number of well-preserved Prairie-style homes, drive-thru restaurants for everything from corn dogs to sandwiches, excellent public transportation and bike-friendly paths, and small town feel with big city benefits.
5. Port St. Lucie, FL
Port St. Lucie, FL is located directly across the state from Sarasota – on the Atlantic side, 50 miles north of West Palm Beach. Its location halfway between Miami and Orlando has made it a desirable place to settle – even more so than touristy Fort Lauderdale. Since the great real estate calamity, prices in Port St. Lucie have been on the rise. In one year’s time, they jumped up 15.74%, in fact. Over the past 15 years, the population has doubled, particularly as retirees and snowbirds discover this new hotspot. People aren’t just coming – they’re buying. Homeownership is above 75 percent here. Port St. Lucie has a top-rated park system, miles of unspoiled river, championship golf courses, and a burgeoning art scene. Buyers will find everything from traditional established suburban enclaves to new, walkable mixed-use neighborhoods with all the amenities.
In addition to these five rebounding markets, Smart Asset has reported that places like Cape Coral and Jacksonville in Florida and the Louisville Ky luxury market continue to attract real estate professionals with big gains. Eugene, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada also made the top 10 markets for agents. The national real estate landscape is ever-changing, but it’s encouraging to see both big cities and smaller nooks doing very well in pricing, sales, and stability.