7 cities real-estate investors should target in 2021, from the 'clever investor' who went from $30,000 in debt to flipping over 1,000 houses

  • Real-estate investment opportunities can be tricky to identify in the current market, which is full of contradictions. Single-family home prices are at record highs nationally, for example, even as certain marquee areas, like Manhattan, struggle.
  • Given the unpredictable climate, some locations are better suited for investment than others, according to longtime real-estate investor Cody Sperber. 
  • The self-described "clever investor," Sperber started out in real estate when he was in debt and has now closed hundreds of millions of dollars in deals utilizing strategies like house flipping, among others.
  • He listed Boise, Idaho, Dallas, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio as some of the cities ripe for investment in 2021. 
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Smart real-estate investors should always be on the lookout for new opportunities.

And because some areas of the US are facing projected home-price decreases over the next year, investors might be able to find affordable properties with the potential for significant upside.

One of them is longtime real-estate investor Cody Sperber, the self-described "clever investor" and founder of "for-purpose" development company Green Elephant Development. He started investing in real estate when he was in debt and has now done hundreds of million in deals, from house flips to rehabs and more.

2021 is the year of the "urban purge," Sperber told Insider, as people continue to leave big cities for affordable homes and lifestyles in what were once flyover states. Because Sperber favors an investment strategy that most often deals with home flips and rental unit acquisitions, he said many of those flyover states are where he's currently focused on doing business, from Idaho to Texas. There, he can buy affordable properties to either renovate and resell for higher prices or rent out to tenants to generate passive income. 

Sperber and his team look for property in areas where job growth and population growth are both high, investors are active, appreciation rates are strong, and the local government is landlord-friendly. These indicators can make a big difference for an investor's bottom line, he said, as overhead costs, tenant laws, and a number of other financial factors vary by state. Picking the right location, then, is key for generating passive income from real-estate. 

With that in mind, here are 7 cities Sperber said investors should keep an eye on if they're looking to maximize returns in 2021. 

1. Boise, Idaho

Idaho's capital, Boise, is a dense suburban city home to around 225,000 people. Sixty percent of residents own their homes. The city is ranked 32nd on the list of best cities to buy a house in America and 51st on the list of best cities to raise a family in America, according to Niche. 

The typical home value in Boise has increased 18.2% over the last year to $391,754, according to Zillow, and the listings site predicts local property prices will continue to rise over the next year. 

2. Dallas, Texas

Dallas is home to around 1.3 million residents, and 60% of them rent their homes. The city is ranked among the best places to live in Texas and offers residents a mix of urban and suburban lifestyle, according to Niche. 

The typical value of a home in Dallas is $237,200, according to Zillow. Over the last year, Dallas home values have gone up 6.9%; Zillow predicts they will continue to rise in the next year. 

3. Tampa, Florida

Tampa is home to just over 375,000 people, where about 52% of residents rent their homes. The city is ranked among the best places to live in Florida and the best cities to retire, according to Niche. 

The typical value of a home in Tampa is $272,167, according to Zillow. Over the last year, Tampa home values have gone up 10.9%, and Zillow predicts they will continue to rise over the next year. 

4. Austin, Texas

With a population just under 1 million, Austin is experiencing a boom thanks to an influx of tech companies and executives. The state capital ranked 17th on the list of top US cities for young professionals, 33rd on the list of best places to raise a family in America, and 23rd on the list of best cities to live, according to Niche.

The city's typical home value has risen 12.8% over the last year and now stands at $437,800, according to Zillow, which predicts Austin home values will continue to increase over the next year. 

5. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus is a city home to just over 860,000. Fifty-five percent of residents rent their homes in the state capital. The city is ranked among the best cities for young professionals in America and offers residents an urban suburban mix, according to Niche.

The city's typical home value has risen 11.6% over the last year and now stands at $186,726, according to Zillow, which predicts Columbus home values will continue to increase over the next year. 

6. Topeka, Kansas

Topeka is a dense suburban city ranked among the best in Kansas, where about 57% of residents own their homes. The state capital, which has a population of just over 125,000, is among the best cities to buy a house in America, according to Niche. 

The typical home value in Topeka increased 9.7% over the last year to $130,740, according to Zillow. Topeka home values are predicted to increase 10.3% in the next year.

7. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham is a dense suburban city home to just over 200,000 residents. Birmingham ranks among the cities with the lowest cost of living in America, and 54% of residents rent their homes.

The typical home value in Birmingham increased 15.7% over the last year to $74,489, according to Zillow. Birmingham home values are predicted to increase 13.1% in the next year.

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