America’s Best Buy

1. Seattle, Wash.
Job-growth projections 2008-2017: 1.5%

Seattle’s peak building period in the 1980s run-up was in the second quarter of 1986. The Savings & Loan crisis didn’t fully halt building activity until the fourth quarter of 1992. What lands it in the first position on this list is the combination of strong job growth with a building cycle that hasn’t run in high excess of demand and, in part, its constrained geography. Especially compared to cities on the West Coast, Seattle has historically not overheated in boom times.

2. Washington, D.C.
Job-growth projections 2008-2017: 0.9%

Building activity hit high points in the second quarter of 1986 and the first quarter of 2006. In the most recent bust, D.C.’s exurbs have been particularly hard hit. Even so, the region has the lowest rate of unemployment in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite recent building exuberance, it has the second lowest demand volatility in the country, meaning that vacancies have historically been very low.

3. San Antonio, Texas
Job-growth projections 2008-2017: 2.0%

There may be little zoning in Texas, and the state may be a model of sprawl (read: lots of homes built in good times), but San Antonio has fared better than its Lone Star brethren throughout the peaks and valleys of the last 20 years. Volatility in home building and vacancy were in the middle of the pack nationally, while the metro area’s job-growth figures have been national leaders.

4. Minneapolis, Minn.
Job-growth projections 2008-2017: 1.1%

Minneapolis has not experienced the same sort of booms seen elsewhere. In the most recent run-up, building activity peaked in the third quarter of 2004; this will help the market in the short term as it means less new inventory dragging down prices. The city’s real strength is its economy, which has less of a manufacturing base than most Midwestern cities and hosts a handful of multinational corporations.

5. New York, N.Y.
Job-growth projections 2008-2017: 0.6%

Part of why New York City prices are so expensive is because the cost to build is one of the highest in the country. There’s also no open land to be found. While that hurts affordability, it stems overbuilding relative to demand. Historically, the New York metro area has the lowest vacancy fluctuations of any city in the country. Unless a new island is added, expect that to continue.