10 Best Markets to Find an Undervalued Home

There are any number of ways to invest in the U.S. real-estate market other than just buying a house to live in. You could buy a fixer-upper at a rock-bottom price in a good location, put in some cash and a lot of sweat equity, and flip the house for a decent profit.

Another way is to buy a house that is seriously undervalued because of its location. (Remember the old real-estate motto: “Location, location, location.”) In this case, though, you would be looking for a house in what the researchers at RealtyTrac call the “best down-and-out neighborhoods to buy a home.”

Daren Blomquist, senior vice-president at ATTOM Data Solutions which owns RealtyTrac, said:

The underperforming school scores and inflated rates of underwater homes in these markets demonstrates they are lagging the housing recovery seen across much of the rest of the nation. But it is clearly evident from this data that many individuals and institutions are betting on these hyperlocal housing markets to still bounce back. Home flipping returns are substantially above the national average, indicating strong buyer demand for fixed-up homes; construction loans are increasing, indicating increased development often at a large scale; and the share of millennial population is increasing, indicating that the pool of new renters and homebuyers is growing.

RealtyTrac has a list of the 35 best locations to buy an undervalued home, and we’re going to list the top 10 here, with Zip Code, gross return on investment (ROI), and percent of homes with underwater mortgages in the first quarter of 2016:

  1. East St. Louis, Missouri, 62206: 227% ROI; 35.3% underwater
  2. Baltimore, Maryland, 21218: 187% ROI; 22.4% underwater
  3. Charlotte, North Carolina, 28206: 180% ROI; 16.7% underwater
  4. Jacksonville, Florida, 32211: 155% ROI; 20.9% underwater
  5. Plainfield, New York, 07060: 147% ROI; 33.8% underwater
  6. Cicero, Illinois, 60804: 139% ROI; 39.2% underwater
  7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19146: 138% ROI; 16.3% underwater
  8. Riverdale, Maryland, 20737: 136% ROI; 18% underwater
  9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53224: 123% ROI; 18% underwater
  10. Decatur, Georgia, 30032: 122% ROI; 41.8% underwater

The RealtyTrac list also includes a school score and the gross profit in dollars.

RealtyTrac (an ATTOM Data Solutions Company) analyzed 3,561 zip codes nationwide with a combined population of more than 124 million people and sufficient data on construction loans, home flips, school scores, share of underwater homes (all from the ATTOM Data Warehouse), and the millennial share of population from the U.S. Census bureau. To make the final cut of Top 35 Best Bad Neighborhoods to Buy a Home, zip codes had to have a population of at least 2,500, an increase in the number of construction loans over the past 12 months, an average home flipping gross return of at least 60 percent, with millennials (born between 1984 and 2000) representing at least 25 percent of the total population and increasing in share of population from 2013 to 2014. Additionally, the zip code’s highest scoring elementary school needed to be below the state average in 2015, and the share of underwater homes in the zip code needed to be at least 15 percent — above the national average.