MIAMI, Jan. 12, 2008 -- What does $100,000 buy you in today's real estate market? "Nightline" went to find out.
And what better place to begin than Miami, the epicenter of the real estate boom and bust.
"With the economy today, there are opportunities for people to buy at prices that people didn't dream, even two years ago, that they would be able to see these kind of prices," said Ron Shuffield, the president of EWM, one of the biggest real estate companies in south Florida.
We started our quest in the suburbs, where the boom transformed tree farms and tomato fields into housing tracts.
"This is Homestead, which is the southernmost city in Miami-Dade county," Shuffield said. "It's located right before you move into the Florida Keys."
Our first stop was a townhouse development finished last year and we immediately found a brand-new home in foreclosure.
"It's owned by a bank, and now the bank has put it back on the market for sale," said Shuffield. "This has obviously never been lived in."
Shuffield said the home was on the market for $92,000.
"It originally sold for about $140,000," he said. "These are the kind of benefits that today's buyers are able to take advantage of when the banks have taken them back and selling them for less than they originally went for."
We found similar stories in cities across the country. Check listings like we did and you'll find a bank-owned three-bedroom on the outskirts of Phoenix for $99,900, a three-bedroom with two-car garage outside Las Vegas for $95,000 or a cozy two-bedroom with brick fireplace in Minneapolis for $84,900.
And in a pretty nice neighborhood in Dallas, real estate agent Amy Downs took us to see a 2,300-square-foot house that was worth $160,000 a year ago and is now owned by a bank eager to unload it.
"[It's] plenty big," she said, giving us a tour. "Ceramic tile. This is the family room, lots of details -- wood paneling, lots of built-ins, continues into the formal dining area."
The home is listed at $109,900, but Downs says you can probably get it for $100,000.
Great Deals on Homes for $100,000
And there's a pool in the backyard and an added sunroom.
Not far away in a Dallas suburb, Downs showed us a three-bedroom home with "a nice-sized kitchen" and a pool.
Originally listed for $139,900, the home is now reduced to $99,000.
"This is a great deal because of the size of the home being over 2,000 square feet. You've got the pool -- it's a diving pool. You've got an attached spa. You've got extra space for your pet," Downs said. "It's just a really great deal and it's in a mature neighborhood."
It is amazing to see what a $100,000 can get you these days: like a bank-owned three-bedroom bungalow outside Los Angeles for $98,900 or a newly renovated home in Cincinnati, listed at $100,000, granite kitchen included.
Sobering News in South Florida
As we continued our quest in Miami, Shuffield offered a sobering snapshot of the south Florida real estate market. Three years ago there were 14,000 condos and houses on the market in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. Today there are 78,000 properties to choose from.
He took us to the Watermark Condominium, a 27-year-old complex in north Miami, just blocks from the ocean.
Agent Allison Cotter was eager to show us what $100,000 would get us here.
"We have an absolutely wonderful one-bedroom apartment," she said. "It's absolutely fabulous. Nice white floors, lots of space big closets. One of my favorite parts is the balcony."
The current owners bought it in 2004 for $135,000. It's listed at $95,500. But in six months there hasn't been a single offer. Cotter thinks a drop of $10,000 might bring in the buyers. But continuing to drop the price can be a difficult pill to swallow for the owners.
"Can I tell you, I have people who actually break down and cry," Cotter said. "When I tell them the news what their apartment is worth. And they literally break down and cry. It's terrible. That's probably been the hardest part of my job right now is telling people the truth."
Miami Beach Prices Plummet
Finally there's Miami Beach, where a one-bedroom condo can cost $1 million and a house can cost $10 million. Agents would have laughed at you three years ago if you said you wanted to spend $100,000. Times have changed.
At the Royal Hotel, a condo hotel with 30 units, there were a few modest properties in our price range. You can own your own small room and rent it when you're not using it.
"Here you're a couple blocks from the beach, you're right in the heart of South Beach where you walk to all the shops and restaurants," said Shuffield.
It's small, but it can be yours for $100,000. Maybe less. You do get access to the roof terrace, hot tub included. Very South Beach.
So is now really the time to buy?
"The bargains are there," Shuffield said. "Not across the board, but certainly for buyers who are willing to do their homework, work with a Realtor to do their homework, be ready to buy. I have told everybody that is interested in buying, pick out your neighborhood, stay closely attached to your neighborhoods over these next weeks and months, and these values sometimes pop up on Monday morning. Maybe on Monday morning a seller says, I am tired of waiting for the right buyer and then they will reduce their price. And we are pretty much there now."
No one thinks the market is going to rebound quickly, so after three stagnant years, the bargains have begun.