2009 Money moves: Low housing prices mean opportunity

Americans are suffering a real estate hangover, and lots of us think hair-of-the- dog is part of the cure. As in, buy property now and wait for the pain to go away, then enjoy the rewards.

Demographics are on our side. As Wachovia Bank economist Adam York told USA Today, "The one saving grace is the population is growing by 3 million people a year. They need to live somewhere. That means more roofs."

Last year, apartment construction fell to the lowest level in 15 years, according to a survey released today by research firm Reis Inc.. Rents in the fourth quarter of 2008 also fell for the first time in five years. But over the long haul, that situation won't last. Fewer apartments and more people add up to higher rents for landlords. The trick is picking the right place to plunk down your dollars. Where might your money down now give you the biggest return?
If you have good credit, a job, some cash and the fortitude to stick it out as the economy recovers, now is a great time to buy, says Forbes.com. Forbes evaluated 40 metro areas using the last 25 years of data from National Association of Home Builders to identify the top 10 cities where property has increased in value and avoided drastic swings in price in tough times. It overlaid that information with Department of Labor data identifying where jobs are holding their own or increasing. Then it factored in cities where there isn't a huge inventory of unsold homes. Below are their picks.

  1. Seattle
  2. Washington, DC
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Minneapolis
  5. New York City
  6. St. Louis, Mo.
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Cincinnati, Ohio
  9. Portland, Ore.
  10. Atlanta

Buying in any of these places won't make you instantly wealthy, but over the long haul, real estate has been a can't miss investment. As Donald Trump told Forbes, "I go with real estate all the time."

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