MARKETS & TRENDS | 14 Houston: On Recovery Road

STRATEGY | 16 How Community Development Leads to Higher Returns MARKETS & TRENDS | 20 Good Deals: It's Always Been About Location, and It Still Is

Chief Empowerment Officer







CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien maintains a belief that likely isn’t popular among other chief executives – encouraging dissent. Her philosophy to empower and elevate each team member is surging CoreVest, a finance company for residential real estate investors based in Irvine, Calif., to new heights.

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14 MARKETS & TRENDS Houston: Recovery Road Underpinned by favorable demographic trends and steady employment, Houston’s economy has improved significantly. A look at how diversifying economy is fueling demand in this Texas metropolis.

16 STRATEGY The Truth About "Community Development" and Your Real Estate Deals For real estate investors, engaging in productive, profitable community development projects can bring many practical benefits.

20 MARKETS & TRENDS Good Deals Some of the best deals can be found in places you haven't heard about for a while. Take a look at 12 lesser known, yet investor-worthy locations.

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Beth O’Brien and her unconventional path surges growth at CoreVest.




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C oreVest CEO Beth O’Brien maintains a belief that like- ly isn’t popular among other chief executives. “You actually want to encourage dissent,” she said. “You don't want to encourage people to not do some- thing if they're supposed to do it. But you certainly want to empower people to challenge you.” Such conviction is part of O’Brien’s broader philosophy to elevate each team member of CoreVest, a rapidly growing finance company for resi- dential real estate investors based in Irvine, Calif. From stimulating productive defiance and embracing failures to emboldening employees to find and use their voice, O’Brien’s approach may be unconventional, but the results speak for themselves. Founded in 2014 by O’Brien, CoreVest is a leading private lender for residential real estate investors throughout the U.S., offering portfolio and single-property loans for rent- al properties as well as short-term credit lines and bridge financing. Re- cently, the company of 100 employees surpassed a significant milestone in closing over $6 billion in loans and fi- nancing over 40,000 investment units. What’s helped CoreVest hit such meaningful achievements is its breadth of experience, O’Brien said.

Beth O’Brien’s Favorite Tech Tools

With clients and offices around the United States, CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien’s work and communication is often executed amid travel. That’s why the executive relies on powerful yet flexible technology to help her perform at her best. Here are a few of O’Brien’s favorite tools.

The iPad As the leader of a 100-person team, O’Brien recognized that her role has evolved from that of a producer of data to one that is consuming it when meeting with clients and making decisions. That’s why she opts for a portable tech tool for her travel-laden schedule: the tablet. “I'm so attached to my iPad that when I once locked it in a car, the CFO said, ‘Did you leave your arm, too? Because I thought it was surgically embedded,’” O’Brien laughed. “Everything we do is cloud-based

and mobile, so I can access everything I do for work on my iPad, which is really nice. … The tablet is not great for creation, but it's awesome for consumption. You can read on it better than a phone, and you can manipulate it. It's all the things I need, which is really consumption of data.”

Social media To stay abreast on real estate market news, O’Brien finds that social media platforms are quite useful. In addition to LinkedIn and Twitter, O’Brien particularly likes Instagram to stay informed. “I'm going to go to the airport soon and I'm going to be in the back of a car, on the phone, checking Instagram and sending emails,” she said. “It helps me feel attached to what else is happening in the market. I get a lot of information from it.”

For example, among CoreVest’s three C-suite executives, there’s more than a collective 80 years of industry experience in real estate and finance. “One of the things that sets CoreVest apart from some of its competitors is our deep understanding of the market,” O’Brien said. “Because we understand the market so well and have so many people who work in our company who were equity investors and have been in this particular market for many years, our ability to customize what the investor needs, our ability to close in a reasonable period of time, and our customer service sets us apart from others. We understand their business well enough to work with them on the busi- ness pieces alone.” O’Brien herself has 30 years of experience in nearly every aspect of the mortgage industry, as both a principal and an

Web-based platform CoreVest’s responsive, web-based platform has been invaluable for O’Brien. It enables her to not only use the same data the company uses but allows her to access it however she needs amid her busy travel schedule. “The way we set up our company data and tools —

advisor and has managed more than $15 billion in trans- actions. O’Brien previously was executive vice president at, where she ran residential capital markets, and previously was the president of, where she ran the financing strategy for the platform. Such a diverse background provided O’Brien not only a well-rounded perspective on the finance and real estate industry but also cultivated compassion and under- standing for a business’s needs. “Having a really diverse background and a non-linear career has been super helpful in having the empathy necessary for all the different departments but also an acumen and ability to multitask on a lot of different top- ics,” she said. “Being CEO is actually making a lot of de-

cisions all day long that aren’t always that sophisticated. Sometimes it's the heavy strategic stuff, but sometimes, it's working with other departments.” CoreVest has also grown thanks in part to its sig- nificant expansion of loan offerings over the last year, helping to serve a diverse and growing client base that employs varied real estate strategies. In spring 2019, CoreVest introduced its Build-to-Rent Complete, which provides a comprehensive financing solution for inves- tors that build and hold portfolios of new rental prop- erties. The company also rolled out additional bridge loan products for multifamily properties and a new 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage loan to provide alterna- tives to finance individual rental properties.

even the way we fund loans — it's all web and cloud-based,” she said. “Being able to use even highly controlled applications in a mobile way has really enabled us and me to travel the way that we like to, to see

the assets we need to see and never feel like we’re not using the actual company systems.”

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THREE LEADERSHIP LESSONS from CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien: Through her decades of executive experience, CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien has cultivated a deep understanding of what’s important in leadership. Now as the honcho of more than 100 employees, O’Brien has been intentional in stepping back to evaluate what aspects of her own leadership should remain consistent and what should evolve. Here are a few of her insights over the years. O’Brien believes that we’re all more effective if we’re true to who we are. The same piece of advice that she issues to new leaders is the same she gives to her children and employees: Find your own voice. “It’s great to be exposed to all different types of people, to learn from them and take from them the things you feel you can incorporate,” O’Brien said. “But at the end of the day, you're never going to be as effective unless you find your own voice. You need to be the leader that you are — not the one that you know you thought was great when you were two jobs in. And that means finding a voice and a style that’s really you.” When you harness your voice, O’Brien said that employees will naturally gravitate toward your message. Authenticity is contagious and will empower those around you, she added. “If you’re true to your own voice, the people will really follow you because it’s genuine,” O’Brien said. “Think about what your friends like about you. What your 1. Find Your Voice

family likes about you? Those are your key attributes that are going to work in your voice. If your friends find you hilariously funny, it may not be the easiest thing to translate to a work environment. But that means that you probably should be a little bit more lighthearted than the average leader because that is part of your persona.” 2. Your Approach Should Evolve As with many things in life, O’Brien encourages people to reflect on how far they’ve come and what should change as a result. One thing to consider for new leaders is whether their approach has become inflexible or stuck in time. Often, new leaders are exclusively tapping into the approach that led them to the corner office, rather than adapting their tack to their new role. “One of the early mistakes people make when they're new to being leaders is that they're so used to being an emerging leader. It's important as an emerging leader to show strength and to be forceful. Sometimes, when you actually get to that leadership position, one of the mistakes people make is that they're a little too forceful, a little too direct because it's how they got there.

your approach is necessary to be a more effective leader because your words and behavior carry more weight. How you conduct yourself or even consider ideas can shape how people execute their work. “Once you actually have that title you've been trying to get to, all of a sudden you have to be careful what you say or how you say it because people are going to do it,” she said. “If you say something in a meeting, they're going to start working on it — even if you are brainstorming. … There's that evolution piece that you have to be mindful of.” 3. Walk the Walk What you accomplish and how you spend your time will always be a stronger testament of your character than what you say. O’Brien encourages all leaders to be mindful of the precedents they set, and to follow through on what they say. “It sounds trite, but I really believe in leading by example,” she said. “If you're going to expect people to do things, you better also be doing the same thing. Do what you expect people to do and that's going to resonate more than anything you say.”

It's a very normal problem.” O’Brien said that tweaking

CoreVest also worked diligently to simplify the loan process via the internet or over the phone. After submitting

According to O’Brien, CoreVest also incorporates a mentality of growth into its company culture, which means that it’s OK to make mistakes along the way. “I don’t want anyone to ever be afraid of a negative outcome,” she said. “You're allowed to challenge, and you're allowed to make mistakes. And that's what I think you need to do if you're trying to build a culture of constant improvement.” At times, O’Brien is still shocked that the company has largely emerged from its startup roots. While it’s exciting and gratifying to drive such growth, O’Brien said that she hopes CoreVest never loses its scrappy, startup attitude. “I think it’s part of what makes us successful,” O’Brien said. “I hope to never fully shed that startup skin, but I recognize that scalability is the quintessential goal of every startup. … I have teenagers, so it's not lost on me that getting teenagers to adulthood is pretty similar to what's going on here. Your basic teenager or 20-some- thing is incredibly capable, incredibly smart, and really not 100 percent ready yet.” As CoreVest has expanded over the last five years, O’Brien said adapting to that growth has been among its biggest challenges. After reading Blitzscaling by entre- preneurs Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman, O’Brien realized

that her company’s challenges were normal. It started out like a small family and grew to become a village, then a town, and then a city. “It made me feel better — that you're supposed to break a little at each step,” she said. “You're supposed to be going along believing tribal knowledge is fine until all of a sudden you need village rules. It was really helpful to think about it that way — that you're supposed to have challenges each step of the way because you’re a different company at 25 people than you are at 50 and 75 and 100 people.” Looking back at the growth over the last five years, O’Brien said she’s thrilled by for Cor- eVest’s growth and is thank- ful for its hand in enhancing customers’ lives.

an application, the CoreVest team works with customers to determine the size and prices of a loan, guiding them through each step. Once approved, a loan can close as fast as a few days, helping customers accelerate plans based on their specific timelines. Such offerings are examples of how CoreVest en- thusiastically tries new things to serve the market and grow its customer base. O’Brien and her team have prioritized an adaptable approach that listens and responds to customers. Iterative design has allowed the company to evolve with the market and continue to address fluctuations as they come. “One of the things that’s really been key to our success is our ability to make decisions, be willing to try new things, and then adjust the decision if it doesn’t work out,” O’Brien said. “We have a culture of constant im- provement. Sometimes it’s just small improvements, like a process or small change. Anything that continues to reduce the friction to the client or increase our efficiency or work in a way that’s a little bit smarter. Sometimes it means evolving the product to fit the client a little bit better. … You can't just build it and they will come.”

Joke breaks are part of the job at CoreVest.

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Three Pieces of Finance Advice fromBeth O’Brien

As the leader of a firm that’s closed over $6 billion in loans for more than 40,000 properties, CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien has plenty of financing advice for real estate investors. An advocate of embracing and learning from mistakes, O’Brien insists that newbies roll up their sleeves for the dirty, hard work of becoming a shrewdly educated real estate investor. Here are a few morsels of financing advice that O’Brien has accumulated through the years. Give Yourself a Cushion Without hesitation, O’Brien’s first piece of advice to investors is a basic but crucial rule to follow. While figures such as home price appreciation are also important factors, O’Brien said it’s imperative that investors have an adequate buffer on their investment’s debt cost. “The most important piece if you’re taking any debt as a new investor is, does the project cover the debt cost,” she said. “That way, if you’re in it longer, you’re still going to be fine. Give yourself enough of a cushion. Coverage is your friend.” Do Your Homework O’Brien encourages investors to carefully research a prospective investment’s area and its comps, which in real estate refers to comparable sales — location, size, condition and features — of recently sold nearby homes. “Do as much homework as you can on the area and on the comparables in the area so that you really know you're getting your valuation right,” she said. “Because it’s very hard to fix a bad value.” Investors can use an agent or research public property records themselves to find a home’s comparables. But regardless of how you find such information, make sure it’s accurate and serves as a guide for your offer. If your analysis is off, O’Brien said it can be really hurt your returns. “You're going to make some mistakes along the way — and mistakes are fine, you will learn from them and you'll probably still do fine on the investment. But if you get the value way off, it's very hard to come back from,” O’Brien said. Treat Investing as a Business Make sure to treat your investing like a business and ensure your actions are in line with your goals. Ultimately, a few extra dollars on a deal might not be worth the extra few months of waiting. “Don't hold out for the last penny,” O’Brien said. “Don't worry if two months later the market's a little bit stronger — you still won and you're using that capital again on something else that you're going to be winning with. Holding out for the last penny is not going to help you either. Just run it like a business, be rational about it, and take your wins when you have a win.”





You certainly want to empower people to challenge you.




“It’s gone by in a flash,” she said. “It feels great and sometimes it’s really humbling. ... I've been able to watch some of our clients grow from pretty small inves- tors to pretty legit large players in the market. It's been incredibly satisfying to be part of those stories. It’s really meaningful to me that we’ve been able to grow and at the same time our clients have been able to grow.” •

Bobby Burch is the Founder of Bobby Burch Creative, a small business storytelling studio. Learn more at and contact him at

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Houston: On Recovery Road


by Yardi Matrix

U nderpinned by favorable de- mographic trends and steady employment, Houston’s economy has improved significantly. During the past four years, the metro’s multifamily market has been through a lot. Houston gained 82,900 jobs in the 12 months ending in June, second only to Dallas for job creation in the state. Moreover, the 2.6 percent year- over-year increase is 90 basis points above the national average, making Houston one of the best-performing metros in the country. Growth was led by profession- al and business services (17,600 jobs), followed by mining, logging and construction (15,300 jobs) and manufacturing (11,000 jobs). The metro’s infrastructure is changing to accommodate growth, with George Bush Inter- continental Airport

million down payment to begin the reconstruction of a segment of Interstate 45. The Texas Medical Center is also undergoing massive expansion, with a 37-acre campus underway that will likely establish Houston as an international hub for biomedical innovations upon its expected 2022 completion. The metro added 95,000 resi- dents in 2017, a 1.4 percent uptick and twice the U.S. rate. Houston’s strong employment market remains a magnet for young professionals. Houston hit $216,970 in 2018, according to Yardi Matrix data, a new cycle high and up 39 per- cent from 2008, as a result of the broad-based employment growth and solid population gains. Homeownership remains the most cost-ef- fective RENTTRENDS The median home value in

0.8 percent year-over-year through July, severely lagging the 3.4 per- cent national rate. Houston joined Miami (2.4 percent) as the only major metros in the U.S. with rent growth below their long-term aver- ages. The Bayou City experienced an unexpected boost in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but rent gains in the market are back to the level they were at the end of 2017. That’s still better than what they were at the beginning of the oil price drop in 2015-2016. The average rent was $1,117 as of July. With recent completions and multifamily projects underway catering mainly to high-income residents, demand for workforce housing has pushed rent growth in the Renter-by-Necessity seg- ment—up 1.3 percent year-over- year, to $888. Lifestyle rents inched up 0.3 percent to $1,396. Occu- pancy in stabilized properties was down 90 basis points year-over- year through July, to 92.7 percent. Eastern suburban submarkets such as Conroe–East, Porter, Baytown, and Galveston saw the strongest year-over-year rent increases due to high demand for their Renter-by-Ne- cessity stock. Despite contractions, core submarkets in West Houston remained the most expensive in the metro, with the Museum District at $1,951, the West End/ Downtown at $1,852, and River Oaks at $1,722. Giv- en Houston’s consistent pipeline and high levels of deliveries since 2015, Yardi Matrix expects rents to improve only 1.9 percent in 2019.


SUPPLY As of July, 18,093 units were underway across the metro. Most of the upcoming supply is in West Houston and geared toward Life- style renters. Only 17 out of the total 76 projects underway cater to the Renter-by-Necessity seg- ment. The West End/Downtown—a dense, urban core submarket in the Inner Loop—accounts for almost a quarter of the apartments under construction (4,606 units), followed by Piney Point Village–North (1,282 units) and Katy (1,021 units). Houston added 2,712 units in the first seven months of the year, all in Lifestyle developments in the metro’s western end. The notable decrease in deliveries comes after five years of significant completions, when almost 80,000 units were add- ed to the stock. Yardi Matrix expects roughly 6,700 new apartments to come online by the end of this year. TRANSACTIONS More than $5.1 billion in multifam- ily assets traded last year, a record level. The metro’s rate of deliveries began its path to moderation in 2018, following two years of intense





completing the first building of

the facility’s $1.2 billion overhaul, Port Hous- ton plan- ning a $39.7 million


option, with the average mortgage


payment ac- counting for 16 percent of the area’s median in- come, compared










expansion of its truck gates to handle great- er volumes, and The Hous- ton-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council approving a $100

development activity. During the first seven months of 2019, $2.3 billion in multifamily assets traded in the metro. Although per-unit prices reached a cycle peak of $112,230 as of July, the figure was more than $45,000 below the U.S. average. Investors were drawn by both Class A

assets and value-add plays in the 12 months ending in July, with the total sales volume surpassing $4.9 billion. Acquisition yields for stabilized Class A properties in infill locations range between 4.8% and 5.3% and can go as high as 6.8% for value-add Class C properties in suburban locations. •

to a 20 percent

level for rent. On the other hand, mul- tifamily rents in Houston rose only

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the development in question will include affordable housing as part of the overarching plan. One of the best examples of this type of community de- velopment done well is in Nashville, where Amazon opted to place an “Operations Center of Excellence” (OCE) after concluding its search for a prime location for a second corporate headquarters. Although Nashville did not land HQ2, the OCE did bring with it 5,000 jobs on a much-ac- celerated timeline compared to the HQ2 winners. Per- haps more importantly, however, was that the OCE cost Nashville comparatively little in light of the expenses that other cities, including the winners, accrued. “Nashville landed Amazon’s business by having some- thing already built, by getting the word out, and by creat- ing a multiuse development with retail, condos, etc. that was ready to go at the same time Amazon was ready,” explained local developer Bruce McNeilage of Kinloch Partners LLC. He went on to say that cities like Nashville, which has a long history of successful public-private part- nership projects already in place due to constant cooper- ation between the city government and private investors, was far better prepared in the “bidding war” for HQ2. In the case of OCE, each job cost the city about $13,000 in public money for incentives and development compared to the per-job-cost in Long Island City of $48,000, for example. Ralph Schulz, CEO and president of the Wilson Coun- ty Chamber of Commerce, elaborated, “Part of the rea- son it was so easy to pull it all together was because we had all these partnerships and teams that are used to doing this [type of public-private project].” Ultimate- ly, the chamber spearheaded the selection process of a site for the OCE, then Amazon made the final selection of Nashville Yards. The Yards is also already involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors with entities like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which recently announced plans to host a series of events in the local entertainment district and possibly lease office space in the area, making it an even more attrac- tive location for a company like Amazon. The project itself is a $1-billion, 17-acre development fronted by a 1.3-acre public park along a CSX Corp. railroad. The work has been partially subsidized with $15.2 million from the city government, and Amazon has boasted the OCE will permit employees to bring their pets to work so they can enjoy the adjacent dog park.


F or real estate investors, engaging in productive, prof- itable community development projects can bring many practical benefits. Perhaps the most familiar is the concept of the public-private partnership, wherein pub- lic entities such as city and state governments combine forces with private entities such as real estate investors and developers to undertake large development projects that neither party in the equation could fund or manage alone. Often, nonprofit organizations enter this equation as well, either matching funds in exchange for having a say in the “mission” of a development or contributing to the overall bottom line by bringing tax incentives or credits to the table. This is particularly common when


EVERYREAL ESTATE INVESTOR BENEFITS FROMCOMMUNITYDEVELOPMENTDONE RIGHT It’s clear that on a grand scale, well-orchestrated community development projects bring economic de-

by Carole VanSickle Ellis

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Community Development

The power of premium.

velopment, rising property values, and great returns to investors. But what if your investing currently operates on a slightly smaller scale? Is there room in the com- munity-development strategy for you? Absolutely, yes. Whether you are involved in the multi-million-dollar types of deals that bring Amazon to new municipal areas, you like to handle your flips one at a time, or you are just focused on snagging that third long-term rental property by the end of 2019, community devel- opment should play a role in your investment strategy. Some community development projects pan out better than others, and you can use your ability to spot a well- planned project to optimize your chances of investing in an area perfectly positioned to benefit from pending community development. While you can (and should) look into transacting in areas that have been targeted for community devel- opment — the most ubiquitous example at present is probably investing in or near a qualified opportunity zone — there is more you can do to check the quality of a community development project. While many of these projects enjoy massive capital influx up front, when it comes to long-term benefits, not all succeed or are sustainable when the public well runs dry. There are three characteristics of a community development master plan that indicate the community itself will be well-positioned to grow long after the initial phases of the project are complete: FLEXIBILITY IN URBAN DESIGN AND ZONING Community development projects incorporate mul- tiple vested interests, which often means zoning and urban design are subject to intense regulation. A sound community development plan will provide protection for the important interests that make the development possible but retain flexibility so that the community can continue to grow. For example, if there are public-tran- sit requirements for the area it is important to allow for the technological evolution of that transit over time and, also, changing rider preferences. Otherwise, you may find your community shackled to outdated transit that makes it an unattractive residential area in 20 or 30 years. NO. 1

run exclusively in a circular pattern that delineates the edge of the community all the way around, effectively enclosing it and creating a physical and mental barrier. Instead, at least some streets should extend outward into the surrounding areas so that there is room for future development and the new community can be integrated into the existing ecosystem of the city. Note: This does not necessarily apply on a mi- cro-scale to multifamily residential developments, which benefit from some degree of enclosure in order to create a neighborhood or community feel. This char- acteristic is more important when viewing an entire community development project that includes housing, retail, green space, office space, etc. BIKEABILITY OPTIONS The terms “walkability” and “bikeability” are no lon- ger exclusively reserved for investors interested in at- tracting a young, “hip,” single and professional crowd. Today, more and more residents and homeowners say the benefits associated with living in a walkable area, such as lower crime rates and better resident health, are important to them and worth paying higher prices for. Even better, there are a number of public grants and environmental tax incentives available to investors and developers whose deals contribute to the overall walkability and bikeability of an area. Many investors make the mistake of completely ignoring community development in their local areas because they believe they are not a “big fish” in their real estate market. Your real estate portfolio can bene- fit from effective community development just as much as that of a hedge fund or national developer and, furthermore, your projects may qualify for communi- ty-development incentives more often than you think. Never count yourself out without doing the research first. Your portfolio will thank you. • NO. 3 SOUND WALKABILITY AND

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NO. 2

Carole VanSickle Ellis is the news editor for Self-Directed Investor Society, an educational resource for self-directed investors interested in using their IRAs and 401(k)s to invest in alternative assets like real property, private notes, and even precious metals or cryptocurrency. Learn more at or email Carole at

SURROUNDING AREAS A well-planned community will have “open” areas that permit it to permeate and become part of other, adjacent communities. For example, streets should not

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Huntsville, AL







Good Deals

Cincinnati, OH







Visalia, CA








Jackson, MS







by Ingo Winzer

Memphis, TN







W ith all the news about hot home prices on the coasts and the dubious joys of big city living, investors might think those are the only places worth looking at. But some of the best deals can be found in places you haven't heard about for a while. Here are a dozen of them. These are places where home prices still haven't recovered from the great recession and have lots of room on the upside. Prices are still well below the 'income' price that relates to local income. The upside is looking pretty good

Fort Wayne, IN







Investors Metro Monitor shows the risks and opportunities in 200 mar- kets across the country. See more at •

because jobs are growing well and demand for housing, as shown by increases in home prices in the last 12 months, is good. Furthermore, the ratio of home prices to rents is 21 or less, which means that investors can make a straight investment in single-fam- ily homes without subdividing or upgrading. And the cost of investing is low — $200,000 or less. These aren't high-growth mar- kets, you'll need to pick and choose the right locations, but there's a good chance you'll land a good deal.

Wichita, KS







Omaha, NE







Syracuse, NE







Ingo Winzer is president of Local Market Monitor, which analyzes conditions in 300 U.S. markets, using such economic data as home values and growth in em- ployment and population. Winzer, who

St. Louis, MO







has analyzed real estate markets for more than 20 years, was a founder and executive vice president of First Research, an industry research company that was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet in March 2007. He is a graduate of MIT and holds an MBA in finance from Boston University. Winzer resides in Cambridge, Mass.

Springfield, MO







El Paso, TX







Source :: Local Market Monitor, 2019

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