As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, December 2008.
On my desk sits a heretofore-unread copy of David Lereah's All Real Estate is Local -- the peculiar afterbirth of the former National Association of Realtors economist, whose previous book was titled Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust -- And How You Can Profit From It.
Needless to say, Lereah has been berated ceaselessly for the past two years or so (see davidlereahwatch.blogspot.com). But All Real Estate is Local does tap into a real estate reality that could be somewhat sensible and somewhat underreported: A city's real estate market is more indebted to other elements of the city -- from proximity to mountains and water to transportation systems -- than to national trends.
Although this thesis doesn't account for a maelstrom of negative economic activity affecting everyone's buying habits regardless of where they live -- which is, well, what we're seeing right now -- it does hold water upon examination of the fundamentals in many major U.S. markets.
In this month's Scotsman Guide, we do just that -- revisiting 10 cities and regions previously analyzed in our Spotlight feature in the past 2.5 years. None appears poised to enter 2009 unblemished. But thanks to local factors, some might be better suited for broker business than others.
Our Special Report on these local markets begins here. For a soundtrack, check out last.fm/user/scotsmanguide.
Also in this issue, we hear from Nicolas P. Retsinas of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, which argued in 2003 (PDF: tinyurl.com/jchs03) that "widespread price declines are unlikely," predicting a solid decade. How does Retsinas describe our current cycle? "Uncharted."