TEN CITIES WITH RISING HOME VALUES
Think that no real estate market is safe?
Think that no real estate market is safe? Believe it or not, there are cities where home values have held their own. Their economies are well diversified, and their population growth has been slow, keeping unemployment low and speculative building to a minimum. Check out these ten cities that have seen an increase in median home value. Change in median home price is from the fourth quarter 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008, which is the most recent data from Fiserv Lending Solutions, a home-price research company. The slide show navigation begins to the right.
By Louis Jones
1. MIDLAND, TEXAS
Metro area population: 126,408Median home price: $172,60012-month change in home value: +10.4%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -4%Top employer: Midland Independent School DistrictApril 2009 unemployment rate: 4.5% Midland's rock bottom unemployment rate, fueled by the local education, oil, manufacturing and health care industries, limits foreclosures in the area. As in most Texas communities, the city’s conservative lending market helped it to largely avoid the subprime-mortgage bubble's burst. The city, located about 50 miles east of the New Mexico border, is home to Midland College and was a childhood home to President George W. Bush.
2. DECATUR, ALABAMA
Metro area population: 149,279Median home price: $105,00012-month change in home value: +6.6%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -42%Top employer: General ElectricApril 2009 unemployment rate: 8.9% General Electric and the 3M Company are among the 18 Fortune 500 companies that have plants in the Decatur area, keeping the economy stable and diversified. Like many other real estate safe havens, Decatur has maintained a modest population and has seen little speculative building.
3. MONROE, LOUISIANA
Metro area population: 169,586Median home price: $125,45012-month change in home value: +6.3%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -30%Top employer: St. Francis Medical CenterApril 2009 unemployment rate: 6.2% Midsize manufacturing companies such as Angus Chemical Company and Bancroft Bag make up a big chunk of the infrastructure in Monroe, located about 30 miles south of the Arkansas border. Local schools such as the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana Delta Community College also give the city a boost. And despite minimal population growth, the area continues to attract new jobs, including 300 service-sector jobs in March.
4. KINGSPORT-BRISTOL, TENNESSEE/VIRGINIA
Metro area population: 302,096Median home price: $139,624 (*This is the average)12-month change in home value: 6.3%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): not availableTop employer: Eastman Chemical CompanyApril 2009 unemployment rate: 8.8% Locals compare this metro area's economy to a slow-growth bond rather than a stock, says city development manager Jeff Fleming. Manufacturing companies such as Eastman Chemical, AFG (a glass manufacturer) and Domtar (a paper company) make up the economy’s backbone. The housing market is kept robust by "halfbacks" who used to spend summers in the North and winters in the South but are now making Tennessee their home year round.
5. VICTORIA, TEXAS
Metro area population: 115,885Median home price: $116,00012-month change in home value: 6.2%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -36%Top employer: Formosa PlasticsApril 2009 unemployment rate: 6.1% Construction of five new schools is in the works, giving a jolt to the local construction industry. Victoria is home to two major hospitals, including Citizens Medical Center, which was lauded as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country in 2008 by Thompson Reuters. The city's location doesn't hurt, either. It's a less than a two-hour drive from San Antonio, Austin and Houston.
6. BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS
Metro area population: 207,734Median home price: $148,00012-month change in home value: 5.5%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -18%Top employer: Texas A&MApril 2009 unemployment rate: 4.5% The lifeblood of this southeast Texas metro area's economy? Texas A&M University, which boasts a slew of ongoing health and science research projects, luring many postgraduate students and educators to the area. Aggie alums are known for their school pride, and many buy homes in Bryan-College Station after graduation or return to the area for retirement. The city is also home to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
7. TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA
Metro area population: 203,865Median home price: $145,00012-month change in home value: +4.8%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -20%Top employer: University of AlabamaApril 2009 unemployment rate: 7.3% With about 6,500 employees, The University of Alabama is a large contributor to this city's success, but industrial stalwarts such as BFGoodrich, Hunt Refining and Mercedes-Benz also provide a bulk of the jobs.
8. STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA
Metro area population: 144,658Median home price: $199,754 (average)12-month change in home value: +4.7%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): not availableTop employer: Penn State UniversityApril 2009 unemployment rate: 5.2% By far, the top employer in State College is Penn State University, with the local government coming in second. The university's business incubator program provides cheap office space and other services to start-up companies, encouraging entrepreneurship in the area.
9. LAREDO, TEXAS
Metro area population: 233,152Median home price: $124,20012-month change in home value: +4.7%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -31%Top employer: United Independent School DistrictApril 2009 unemployment rate: 7.2% Laredo's location on the Mexican border makes it the largest inland port in the U.S. and a major trade route among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The United Independent School District, Laredo Independent School District and the city government are the three biggest job sources in the city.
10. LUBBOCK, TEXAS
Metro area population: 268,438Median home price: $113,00012-month change in home value: +4.6%Home value vs. national median ($180,200): -37%Top employer: Texas Tech UniversityUnemployment: 4.2% Like many other Texas cities, Lubbock's well diversified economy, spurred by education and research, health care, and manufacturing keeps unemployment and foreclosures low. Sometimes called a "hub city," the western Texas town serves as a distribution center to many cities in Texas and New Mexico. With almost 30,000 students, Texas Tech University is also a vital part of Lubbock's economy.