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10 bargain ski towns to invest in

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Not all ski towns are Aspen.

The median price of homes in that Colorado winter-sports hot (cold?) spot is well over a half-million dollars. Places like Huntsville, Utah, and Georgetown, Colorado, on the other hand, have plenty of properties available for less than $200,000 -- and plenty of good slopes to go around.

The job of real estate investors is to look for best location to buy based on their own set of criteria. Call it finding the "profit pocket." These location-based criteria could include proximity to good schools, public transportation or large groups of renters.

Investors might also simply choose to buy in the market they're most familiar with.

RealtyTrac, with the help of ski data company Zrankings, created a list of the best U.S. ski towns for real estate investors in 2015 that considered several factors: The town's distance from the nearest airport, its unemployment rate, median home price, gross rent yield, annual home price appreciation, foreclosure rate and how generally fun it is to ski there.

Check out the 10 best ski towns for investing in real estate this year.

Huntsville, Utah

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Median home price: $169,950*
Annual home price appreciation: 3 percent
Gross rental yield: 7.7 percent
Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent**
Foreclosure rate: 0.22 percent***

The quaint town of Huntsville, Utah, located in the state's Odgen Valley region, may only have about 600 people, but it has three ski resorts. Tourists and would-be residents flock to the Wasatch Mountains to hit the slopes at the Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley resorts, and to take advantage of the 9,250-foot summit elevation. It has the lowest median home price on this list at about $170,000, and it was named the best ski town for real estate investors by RealtyTrac, all things considered.

* RealtyTrac data from November 2014 reports
** By county
*** By ZIP code

Bellingham, Washington

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Median home price: $245,000
Annual home price appreciation: 4 percent
Gross rental yield: 6.81 percent
Unemployment rate: 6.3 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.44 percent

Bellingham, Washington, is about 90 miles north of Seattle on Bellingham Bay and gives skiers easy access to Mount Baker. It has a population of about 83,000 and is divided into 25 neighborhoods with many different housing styles, including Victorians, farmhouses, urban condos and new developments. The Mount Baker Ski Area, located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, is a huge draw, offering 10 ski lifts and a 1,500-foot vertical drop. The city is also the home of Western Washington University, which provides a potential student rental market for investors.

Sandy, Utah

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Median home price: $249,998
Annual home price appreciation: 2 percent
Gross rental yield: 9.26 percent
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.76 percent

Sandy, also located in the Wasach Mountains in Utah, is significantly larger than Utah's Huntsville, with a population of around 90,000. A slew of ski resorts -- Alta, Snowbird, Solitude Mountain, Brighton, Park City Mountain, Canyons and Deer Valley -- are all nearby, providing skiers with plenty of options. The Salt Lake City suburb has the lowest unemployment rate on this list at about 3 percent, and it has an average household income of around $76,000, according to the most recent Census.

Georgetown, Colorado


Median home price: $189,000
Annual home price appreciation: 11 percent
Gross rental yield: 9.33 percent
Unemployment rate: 3.4 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.49 percent

Georgetown, Colorado, was founded during the Colorado silver boom in the late 1850s and is still known as the "Silver Queen of the Rockies." The Victorian Clear Creek Canyon town has several nearby attractions for Rocky Mountain ski aficionados, including the Loveland Ski Area, Vail Ski Resort, Beaver Creek Resort and Wolf Creek Resort. It has the highest gross rental yield on this list at just over 9 percent, making it an attractive choice for investors. One of the only drawbacks is that the nearest airport is Denver International, which is 55 miles away, making travel and tourism more difficult.

Whitefish, Montana


Median home price: $279,000
Annual home price appreciation: 26 percent
Gross rental yield: 5.24 percent
Unemployment rate: 5.8 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.06 percent

Whitefish, Montana, located in the Flathead Valley near Glacier National Park in the Rocky Mountains, is relatively small, with a population of about 7,000 people. The Northern Railway hub is home to 14 ski lifts, an approximately 7,000-foot summit elevation and the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort. Home prices in the area are rising faster than anywhere else on this list -- at an astounding 26 percent. Homeowners who snagged properties early seem to be doing well: The 0.06 percent foreclosure rate is the lowest of the 10 towns.

Enumclaw, Washington


Median home price: $245,000
Annual home price appreciation: 7 percent
Gross rental yield: 7.3 percent
Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.91 percent

Emunclaw, Washington, with a population of around 11,000 people, is located 40 miles southeast of Seattle. "Emunclaw" means "thundering noise," which makes sense given its echo-y position 750 feet above sea level in the Cascade Mountains and near Mount Rainier. Skiers head to Emunclaw's Crystal Mountain Resort where they get access to 11 ski lifts in winter and gondola rides in the summer. The town has the highest foreclosure rate on this list at nearly 1 percent, which could mean some good opportunities for investors.

Crested Butte, Colorado


Median home price: $225,000
Annual home price appreciation: -12 percent
Gross rental yield: 5.87 percent
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.11 percent

The historic town of Crested Butte in southwestern Colorado is sometimes called the "Gateway to the Elk Mountains," "Colorado's Last Great Ski Town" and a few other epic monikers to match its big outdoor tourism allure. The former coal-mining town has a small population of about 1,500 and is the home of the Crested Butte Mountain Resort and 16 ski lifts.

Crested Butte's home prices are the only ones depreciating on this list, however. They're at negative 12 percent, according to RealtyTrac. That may make a few investors back away, but for the risk-takers, dropping prices mean Great Recession-level deals in a popular tourist town. That means investors should take particular advantage of rentals while the market recovers.

Bozeman, Montana


Median home price: $279,000
Annual home price appreciation: 0 percent
Gross rental yield: 4.89 percent
Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.09 percent

Bozeman, Montana, has a population of about 40,000 people, due in large part to the students, faculty and staff of Montana State University. In addition to hitting the slopes at the Bridger Bowl Ski Area and the Big Sky Resort, visitors come to the area to see the scenic Yellowstone National Park (about 80 miles away) and to camp in Gallatin National Forest. Bozeman has the lowest gross rental yield on this list at about 5 percent, but it earns it's spot at No. 8 because it's not appreciably lower than places like Mammoth Lakes, California, and Whitefish, Montana.

Bend, Oregon


Median home price: $249,998
Annual home price appreciation: 5 percent
Gross rental yield: 5.47 percent
Unemployment rate: 7.79 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.65 percent

People come to Bend to ski and snowboard in the Cascade Mountains, hike and bike in Deschutes National Forest and fish in the Deschutes River. The central Oregon city of around 80,000 people is home to the large Mount Bachelor Ski Resort, which has 71 ski runs and an over-3,000-foot vertical drop. However, Deschutes County also has the highest unemployment rate on this list at 7.79 percent.

Mammoth Lakes, California


Median home price: $340,000
Annual home price appreciation: 5 percent
Gross rental yield: 5.02 percent
Unemployment rate: 6.5 percent
Foreclosure rate: 0.49 percent

The former gold rush town of Mammoth Lakes, California is located in the Mammoth Lakes Basin within the Eastern Sierra mountains. It comprises just 4 square miles and has a population of about 8,000. Residents and visitors enjoy the extensive, 300-mile Mammoth Lakes Trail System, guided snowshoe walks, horseback riding and apparently a wide array of music and fishing festivals. Mammoth Lakes' popular Mammoth Mountain Resort has 28 ski lifts and 150 trails to choose from. The town is at the bottom of this list for investors, primarily because it has the highest medium home price at $340,000.

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