Top 30 FREE Resources For Selecting the Best Real Estate Markets
We've arranged the following resources into the categories/factors that we've found to be the best determinants of the strength of a particular market. While there are many other factors and even sources of this information, these are the links that we've found most useful through our own research.
Places to Get Started
The below 3 resources should provide the investor with a great overview of the markets they're interested in. Use these resources to familiarize yourself w/ your target (or potential target) market at a high level.
> 1. Bestplaces.net
Population Migration Trends
> 4. Google search "CITY NAME/MSA + Population": This quick search should display a trend graph that can be used to quickly discern if your area is growing or not.
> 5. Uhaul Migration Trends Top 25 Growth Cities of 20XX: Who better to know where people are moving than a moving van company? They produce this annual report based on the data they get from movers using their vans.
> 6. United Van Lines - Annual Movers Study: Same as above.
Labor Market Growth
> 7. Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities: The one-time junk bond king Michael Milken founded this think tank which among other things produces research on local economics. In their annual reports, they use economic data to predict which cities will grow and flourish in the coming years. A GREAT resource for the forward-thinking investor.
> 8. HUD Comprehensive Housing Market Analyses: See local market unemployment trends vs. the national average as well as nonfarm payroll growth over time.
> 9. Set up Google Alerts on "CITY NAME/MSA + Job/Labor/Employment Growth": Try this video to learn more about setting up Google Alerts for news articles that will make you sound like a local market expert when you're on the phone w/ brokers and property managers in your target market. We use these alerts to this day to stay up to date on local developments, economics, and even sports in our target markets (bringing up local sports teams is a great way to make conversation and build rapport w/ your local team members).
Diversity of Employer Base
> 10. Bestplaces.net: See "Population by Occupation" section for a breakdown of the industries/sectors that make up your target market's employment base.
> 11. BLS.gov: See "% of Total Employment vs. US Avg" to understand where your target market has higher exposures to certain industries vs. the national average. The last thing you want is to be disproportionately affected when one industry craters (I'm looking at you Detroit in '08).
> 12. Costar/REIS/Reonomy Reports: You can ask for these from your broker, PM, or lender team members who should have access to these paid-subscription services. These reports are the gold standard for learning about local market dynamics and are a great starting point for any investor new to their target market.
> 13. HUD Comprehensive Housing Market Analyses: See "Construction Activity, New Construction, and Forecast" sections specifically.
Favorable Business & Tax Environment
> 14. Landlordology: This site details all of the pertinent state laws and regulations for landlords. A very good starting point for learning about the local rent control, eviction, and landlord protection laws in your target market.
> 15. TaxFoundation.org: See "County Property Tax Paid" section. This interactive heat map shows which counties pay the most in property taxes nationally.
> 16. WalletHub.com: See "Property Taxes by State" section. Ranks states based on effective property tax rates and also the annual taxes state residents would pay on the state's median home price.
> 17. CityData.com: Offers tons of data on city crime rates by type and year. You can also compare local crime rates to their state and national averages. You want to observe a downward trend in crime rates over time.
> 18. ADT Interactive Crime Map: Displays an interactive crime heat map down to the zip code level. You can compare state, county, city, or zip code crime indices by category vs. the national average. Very good granular data for the detailed-oriented investor.
> 19. SpotCrime.com: This site offers a free or a paid version which both display criminal events by category on a map of your area of interest. You can also set up email alerts to get notified if certain crimes happen within your area of interest.
> 20. CityProtect.com: Similar to the above.
> 21. Median Rents/Median Income: This is a great metric to use and compare local markets in order to gauge affordability. If median rents are very high compared to incomes, there's not much room to raise rents without losing renters or increasing your risk of bad debt. Many brokers recommend gross monthly income of at least 3x rents, so one can use this is a lower limit when evaluating their market/sub-market.
> 22. Google MyMaps: The modern day equivalent of a large wall map w/ thumb-tacks on it. This is a tremendous tool for an investor to organize information on a Google map for quick reference. You can add a layer for zip codes, sub-markets, properties you've made offers on, or just about anything else. Check out this article which details how to use this great tool to build your local market knowledge.
> 23. Brokers: Your brokers are your greatest resource for local market insights. They can tell you where the path of progress is going, the types of tenants you'll get in certain areas, as well as what areas are war-zones. Lean on them to answer questions you may have about sub-markets within your MSA.
> 25. Trulia.com Neighborhoods: Offers good high-level information on specific neighborhoods/sub-markets within your city of interest including resident reviews, crime maps, school ratings, and an "Explore the Area" section on local attractions.
> 26. Economic Development Directory: If your MSA has an economic development agency, they'll be listed here. These groups can offer tons of insight into development projects, city planning, and what's to come for your target market.
> 27. U of Denver Burns School of Real Estate Quarterly Real Estate Market Cycle Report: Professor Glenn R. Mueller, PhD at U of Denver is a thought leader in the domain of local real estate market cycles and his team puts together these quarterly surveys which are used by some of the largest and most successful investors across the country. The reports inform investors on the supply/demand dynamics in their target market(s).
> 28. National Brokerages' Research: Colliers, Marcus & Millichap, CBRE, Berkadia, Cushman & Wakefield, etc. all put out regular regional or MSA-level reports on the multifamily market. This high-quality content is compiled by them to help inform their clients and their brokerage professionals on the state of their local markets. These are a tremendous resource and most can be retrieved by simply signing up/logging onto their sites.
> 29. Biggerpockets.com Forums: One of the greatest resources for researching a local market can be investors that already invest in that market. BiggerPockets allows you to search for market-specific boards as well as set up keyword alerts for your target market. By reading these boards/posts and reaching out to frequent contributors on those markets, you can learn a ton that even "insider" local investors there might not be aware of!
> 30. Neal Bawa's Location Magic Course: An awesome (and FREE!) course on how Neal, the real estate data guru himself, identifies markets of interest. Highly recommend this course for those of you that want to take your out-of-state investing acumen to the next level.