Jan. 11, 2006 -- If you're looking to make some money, consider investing in real estate. According to the National Association of Realtors, 23 percent of all homes purchased in 2004 were acquired as investment properties. But real estate mogul and "Good Morning America" contributor Barbara Corcoran has one of the sharpest eyes in the field. Here are her picks for the Top 5 hottest areas across the country.
Average home: $99,000
What makes it great: If you want a big house for a small price, go to Enid. Nationwide, the average home price is $216,000. In Enid, you can pay less than half of that for a nice, spacious house. The town is experiencing a business boom -- in the last three years, private business has brought in 900 new jobs. The downtown area has recently been rebuilt, and lots of wealthy families from Austin, Texas, and Houston have moved there for the small-town charm.
What you can learn: Look for an upturn in rental prices. If they're going up, then that means people are moving there because they have jobs and they're renting first and then buying. So, you should buy now.
South Bronx, N.Y.
Average home: $380,000
What makes it great: The South Bronx is the last housing frontier close to New York City. It lost 57 percent of its population in the 1970s; now people are coming back. Public money is flowing in, and developers are really starting to lay their bets. Most importantly, it's attracting creative energy -- artists and musicians are moving there -- which can really revitalize an area.
What you can learn: Here are three tips from the South Bronx that apply to any depressed area. One, track the number of classified ads selling property each week. They should double every month. Second, assess an area at night. A night life -- like clubs and cafes -- is a good sign that a neighborhood is on the rise. Third, look for the price of a cup of coffee to rise. Up-and-coming neighborhoods draw expensive coffee sellers.
Average home: $331,000
What makes it great: Sitka's scenery is breathtaking -- you can actually see whales from the town's boardwalks. It also offers charming houses, some of the cleanest air and water in Alaska, and great health-care facilities. The town has a terrific vibe and offers a great mix of people -- young families and retirees.
What you can learn: The tip here is all about land. Sitka is an island, and only 5 percent of its land can be developed. Most of it has been built on already. So, real estate is a scarce commodity that's only going to become more valuable. Looking for similar situations in other areas is a good strategy.
Average home: $166,000
What makes it great: One of the last affordable markets left in Florida, Jacksonville is really gaining momentum. The city is split by a river and surrounded by the ocean, so there is a waterfront on three sides and miles of beach. Check out the Springfield neighborhood. It used to be called "Pornshop Row." Now it's a hub of arts and culture.
What you can learn: Go dump-hunting: Go to an undesirable area that's next to a prestigious area. Soon, the neighborhoods' lines will get blurred.
Average home: $214,000
What makes it great: Cheap but chic, Oxford is full of university-town charm and Southern graciousness. It's still quaint enough to be considered a small town, but it's distinguished enough to become a vacation destination. Mississippi is about 10 percent cheaper than the rest of the country, so your dollar goes further.
What you can learn: Oxford is one of the Top 3 places where wealthy people from New Orleans moved after Hurricane Katrina. Anytime there's been a mass migration like that, a real estate boom is bound to follow.
Another tip: When vacant lots start selling like hot cakes, the market is ready to take off.