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Is Your City a Top Real Estate Market?

They list, I blog. BusinessWeek and Forbes have come out with their own discrete, but somewhat complementary, lists of America's Top Cities for Housing after analyzing market data provided by (let me here wave hi to Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries). Here's what you need to know about them:

The BW list, titled "America's Top Housing Markets," is in the now: it looks at what percentage of single-family homes rose in value in individual cities. The writer is Prashant Gopal; the timeframe is the past year, 2Q 2009 over 2Q 2008. I like this list not just because my hometown of Little Rock, Ark. is #7 (go Razorbacks!), but because it really reflects widespread strength in a particular housing market. If a lot of homes are gaining in value, chances are the driver is a strong business climate, and heaven knows we're all looking for that now.

BusinessWeek's Top Five:

  1. Boulder, Colo.
  2. Spartanburg, S.C.
  3. New Orleans, La.
  4. Binghamton, N.Y.
  5. Fayetteville, N.C.
Except for New Orleans, which seems to be finally gaining some momentum in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the common denominator here seems to be that these are all places strongly anchored by colleges and universities. They're not necessarily one-horse college towns, but they have institutions attracting intellectual talent and providing, as the story notes, "recession-resistant jobs." It's a theme that continues down the list, with college-heavy cities such as Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Cumberland, Md., and Fort Collins, Colo.

Forbes, on the other hand, is looking to the future: Matthew Woolsey's "Best Cities for a Housing Recovery" looks at places where sales activity picked up in the past year and where the percentage of foreclosure sales is the lowest. The idea is that if sales volume is turning around, it might be an indicator that demand is picking up -- so pricing might follow.

If you don't mind me drawing an analogy to stocks, BW offers a blue-chip list and Forbes is a momentum play.

Forbes' Top Five:

  1. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
  2. Lincoln, Neb.
  3. Colorado Springs, Colo.
  4. Salem, Ore.
  5. San Luis Obispo, Calif.
The Forbes list is somewhat California-heavy, which isn't surprising, given how much the California markets had fallen. If you're interested in the Golden State, also check out Santa Barbara (#9) and San Jose (#10).

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