- Housing Issues Arise in Wake of Joplin Tornado

Nine days after a devastating F5 tornado destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri, leaving 130 people dead, clean-up continues and the reality of a housing shortage is becoming a major concern.  Nearly 5,000 residents have applied for assistance with FEMA for temporary housing with the reality being that there simply is not enough available housing for those left homeless. Many of the survivors are seeking housing up to sixty miles away and FEMA is considering bringing in trailers to help alleviate the housing shortage.

Our hearts go out to the residents of Joplin; there is no way to comprehend the suffering and angst they are going through as their lives have been uprooted and they now must consider a future that could include relocation to another city, away from family, away from jobs, away from the only place they have called home for decades.

Strangely, the tragedy in Joplin brings to light a problem that will be facing most of the country within the next year if experts are correct. 

The recent and ongoing recession has rocked the real estate market with over three million foreclosures, huge inventories of unsold homes, and declining home values.  Another problem that most people don’t realize is that many construction companies have gone out of business and construction of new homes has been greatly curtailed.

The bottom line, according to Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust Advisors, is that we are only building 1/3 of the houses we will need to meet population growth.  According to Wesbury, America needs 1.6 million housing units built per year to keep up with population growth and the destruction of current homes.  Currently in the United States there is only about six or seven months’ inventory and that figure will shrink rapidly as the recession eases and the economy stabilizes to the point that people start buying houses again.

What we are going to see, according to economists, is more and more people relocating in search of jobs and affordable housing, just as we now see in Joplin and we also saw after Hurricane Katrina.  What this means, of course, is that investment in real estate is considered a very safe investment at this time, and profits could be seen in the short term rather than the long term. 

For investors, this is the best possible time to invest in housing.  Prices are down and just now showing signs of recovering from the recession.  Interest rates are still low but there is no guarantee they will remain this low for much longer.  Beautiful homes in established neighborhoods with excellent histories of re-sell are sitting empty just waiting for an investor or someone in need of housing to snatch them up.  And although there is no such thing as a sure thing in investing, real estate is looking as close to a sure thing as any investment on the financial landscape right now.

Low interest rates, low down payment demands, reluctant but motivated sellers, a huge housing shortage… all adds up to the perfect time to invest in a market that two years ago looked like a bad investment.

Relocation is never easy.  Being torn away from your home, losing possessions, being unsure about the future, these are real-life problems that require the assistance of professionals who are compassionate and understand the landscape of the real estate market.  We at send our sympathy out to the residents and survivors of Joplin, Missouri.  If we can be of any assistance as you consider relocating, please give us a call.  For the rest of you out there wondering if this is the time to invest in real estate, our answer is very simple:  YES!

By Ikem Chukumerije

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