Five Places to Buy Bargain Real Estate

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If you've got a little money to invest in real estate, you're in a nice buyer's market. You want to buy an investment and/or vacation property that's in great condition, in an excellent location and is in the perfect place to explode in value when the economy and the real estate market heal.

Talk to 20 real estate experts about where they would invest and you'll end up with 20 different communities. Even if they can agree on a city, they may not agree on which neighborhood is the best value.

Here's a list of five areas that may not be on everyone's radar yet, so act fast:

Scottsdale, Ariz.
Built up in the early 20th century from an old citrus orchard, Scottsdale was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright and is the hometown of so many professional athletes, it's hard not to bump into one at Starbucks (SBUX).

Summers are brutal, with long months of triple-digit heat, but the winters and springs are divine, dry and mild.

Scottsdale has long been a place where the upscale retire gracefully and, of course, with more baby boomers than ever hitting their 60s, property here is likely to stay on a nice, upward course.

Recent sales: Two bedroom, two bath, 1,059 square-foot condo, $186,000; five bedroom, four bath 3,139 square-foot single-family house next to country club, $900,000.

Miami
Yes, we know, just about everyone who bought in Florida the past five years has been burned by declining property values.

But something funny is happening in South Florida -- sales are creeping up across the board for all types of properties.

It's probably not a sign that the boom days are back but it could be an indication that now may be the time to buy in Miami. Again, think retirees, but also think about those foreigners who are interested in buying Florida real estate with their nice, strong currency.

Recent sales: Two bedroom, two bath, 1,400 square-foot condo with ocean views on Brickell Island, $475,000; five bedroom, three bath, 4,061 square-foot single-family home in northeast coconut grove for $975,000.

Coronado, Calif.
It's hard to go wrong with California beach real estate, and it's also hard to find a bargain.

Although you'll have to stretch to find anything lower than seven figures on this historic island just off of San Diego, there is an interesting trend. Real estate sales show that the average prices for all properties on Coronado are rising -- except for three-bedrooms, for some reason. They've slumped 10% since the beginning of the year, to an average price of $1.4 million.

This could be because the "cheap" one- and two-bedroom beachfront condos are hot right now, and the larger four- and five-bedroom manses are in their own world.

Recent sales: Three bedroom, two bath, 1,635 square-foot single-family home, $1.2 million; three bedroom, two bath, 1,200 square-foot condo, $735,000.

Santa Fe, N.M.
A slow-paced, arts-oriented beautiful town in the Southwest (again, think retirees). Painter Georgia O'Keefe wasn't drawn to this rural outpost two hours from Albuquerque for the nightlife. The stunning skies and sunsets make visitors want to look at property, which is why a nice property here is a good investment.

The summers are more mild than the lower-altitude deserts of Arizona, and good winter skiing is a short drive away.

Recent sales: Three bedroom, two bath, 2,300 square-feet, $839,000; two bedroom, two bath, 1,113 square-foot condo, $170,000.

Coastal North Carolina
Lots of beaches and water views along this state's entire coast. It's one of the few places left where you can still get a decent beach house at a reasonable price. Plus, it's the vacation area for the growing "research triangle" tech business area near Raleigh.

Recent sales: Four bedroom, three bath 1,510 square-foot house in Surf City, $638,000; five bedroom, four bath, 2,681 square-foot home in Pink Hill, $600,000.

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