Friday, October 28, 2011

America's Best and Worst Housing Markets, 2011

Want to know how bad the real estate market is? Just drive down almost any street in the U.S. and you’re likely to see “for sale” signs lining the road. Come back a month later, it’s a good bet the same signs are still there—and quite possibly a few new ones, too. But while there’s a lot of housing pain, there’s also some good news. That’s because in some markets across the country not only have home values improved, a few have even seen double-digit growth.
So where is this miracle occurring? Believe it or not, the city that has seen the biggest increase in home value is in Florida. That’s right—the state that has seen home values plummet 52.3 percent from 2006 peak levels. Nearly 96,000 loans were modified in Florida through August 2011 under President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program. Joblessness, foreclosures, and high inventory hamper recovery in nearly every corner of the state, with rare exceptions. In this case, the rare exception is Weston, a high-income city of more than 65,000 people near Fort Lauderdale where the median home value has risen 15.1 percent to $280,000 from February 2009 to August 2011.

A survey of the 1,000 largest cities nationwide by online real estate marketplace Zillow for identified the markets with the biggest gains and losses in home value, ranking Weston the best-performing city since Obama took office. In contrast, the U.S. median home value fell by 9.9 percent over the same period.
What’s behind Weston’s success? Ines Garcia, an agent for EWM Realtors in Weston, describes the city as “Broward County’s cul-de-sac.” “It’s like driving into a gated community: the landscaping, the manicuring all around the city,” she says. “We were very lucky. Weston was one of the last communities to fall and one of the first to recover.”
Other winners: Arlington, Mass., where the median home value increased by 14.8 percent since February 2009; Brookline, Mass., at 13.6 percent; and the D.C. suburbs of Burke, Va., at 13.5 percent, and Vienna, Va., at 12.8 percent, Zillow data indicate.
Of course, the winners are far outnumbered by the losers. The city with the worst-performing market in the survey is only 50 miles from Weston in Homestead, Fla., where the median home value dropped by 48.8 percent since February 2009. Rounding out the bottom worst-performing markets: former manufacturing city Pontiac, Mich., with a 47.4 percent decrease, and New Jersey capital Trenton, at 46 percent.
While those in depressed housing markets hope for solutions from the White House, “I don’t see how any President is responsible for the housing market in a particular area,” says Steven Blitz, director and senior economist at ITG Investment Research in New York. The federal government and national housing policies have a limited impact on a local level.
According to Zillow Senior Economist Svenja Gudell, under current conditions the median U.S. home value will likely fall another 3 percent to 5 percent and not reach trough until 2012 at the earliest. The Obama years have been bad ones for housing, yet government was not alone in breaking the housing market—and it cannot be alone to fix it.

Here's America's five best housing markets:

No. 5 - Vienna, VA | Photo: Robert Shafer/Getty Images
No. 5 - Vienna, VA
Percent change: +12.8
MSA: Washington, D.C.
Population: 15,687
One of the gems of Fairfax County, Vienna is home to such attractions as the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and the rolling greens of the private Westwood Country Club. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the median home value in the city was $638,500 in August, and the median sale price was $ 645,400 as of Aug. 31.

No. 4 - Burke, VA | Photo: Michael Melford/Getty Images
No. 4 - Burke, VA
Percent change: +13.5
MSA: Washington, D.C.
Population: 41,055
A green area of parks, cul-de-sacs, and community centers with pools on the outskirts of the greater Washington, D.C., area, Burke is an affluent community within Fairfax County. The median home value in the city was $434,200 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price as of Aug. 31 was $427,300.

No. 3 - Brookline, MA
Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
No. 3 - Brookline, MA
Percent change: +13.6
MSA: Boston
Population: 58,732
The affluent suburb of Brookline shares a border with Boston but has a unique feel, with upscale stores and cute restaurants. The town is mostly residential, with historic houses that hearken back to the Revolutionary War. It is also the site of the Country Club, the oldest country club in the U.S., which was founded in 1882. The median home value in the city was $506,900 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price was $513,200 as of July 31.

No. 2 - Arlington, MA | Photo: Getty Images
No. 2 - Arlington, MA
Percent change: 14.8
MSA: Boston
Population: 42,844
Settled in 1635 as Menotomy Village, an Algonquin word for rapids or swift water, and later named Arlington, the area has a rich history that includes part of Paul Revere's famous ride. The town has a high level of median income, great schools, and green parks. Home sales in this Boston suburb have increased for the last four years, according to The median home value in the city was $475,800 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price was $468,200 as of July 31.

No. 1 - Weston, FL | Photo: Getty Images
No. 1 - Weston, FL
Percent change: 15.1
MSA: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL
Population: 65,333
The country's top-performing housing market since President Obama took office: Weston, a luxury community near the Everglades in the Fort Lauderdale area. The city has been home to such pro athletes as former White Sox player José Canseco and the Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez, according to real estate news site From April 2008 to April 2011, the population grew about 5 percent, estimates the University of Florida Bureau of Economics & Business Research. In 2006 ranked Weston one of "The Best Affordable Suburbs" in the U.S. The median home value in the city was $280,000 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and as of Aug. 31, the median sale price was $335,000.

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