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The housing market has a green lining

Marketplace Staff Aug 26, 2008

The housing market has a green lining

Marketplace Staff Aug 26, 2008


Stacey Vanek-Smith: Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the housing market. Last month, the number of unsold homes hit an all-time high, and there were more than 9,000 foreclosures a day. All of that has the real estate market sounding a bit like this:

[Sound of crickets chirping]

But that’s actually good news for one kind of investor, as Jennifer Collins explains.

Jennifer Collins: Will Rogers finds undeveloped land — and tries to keep it that way. He runs the conservation group The Trust for Public Land. And lately, his job has gotten a lot easier.

Will Rogers: The current situation where values are dropping really is providing opportunities to acquire land for conservation that would otherwise be developed.

Rogers’ group and others like his tend to have a lot of cash on hand. So they’re able to buy land outright or secure better financing than private developers who rely on credit.

Rogers says since last fall, his organization has preserved a thousand acres all over the country. That land would have otherwise been destined for development. But because real estate deals are less profitable these days, The Trust can buy up the land and turn it into parks or open space.

Rogers: We sometimes refer to this as the green lining in the dark cloud of the real estate meltdown.

Take an 850-acre swath of oceanfront property on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. The beach was about to become home to a thousand condos and a sprawling hotel. But thanks to falling property values, the developers’ financing fell through. The Trust is working to make sure the land stays just like this:

[Sound of waves crashing]

Set aside as habitat for green sea turtles and endangered monk seals.

Other groups are taking advantage of the falling property values as well. The Nature Conservancy and the Land Trust Alliance also report they’re able to secure better deals now that the real estate bubble has burst.

These groups are there to help more than just turtles and seals. Real estate brokers like Ryan Flegal say houses near open space are more valuable than those in the concrete jungle.

Ryan Flegal: Everybody loves being near a park or near some wilderness. So if somebody else is paying for that and they don’t have to, that’s all the more benefit on their property value.

Location, Location, Location. In fact, Flegal and his girlfriend just closed on a house near a couple of parks in Southern California. He says they plan to remodel the house. And thanks to the green space, they’ll be in a better position to sell when the markets are singing again.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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