Best Vibrant City for Duplex Investment/Living

10 Replies

Hi there,

I've saved up a bit and am considering taking a break from work, relocating to a city TBD, buying a duplex, and having tenants offset the costs.

In terms of Cities I've spent all of my life in California (Southern California, San Francisco), so would like to try something new. If I were to rank them, I'd rate the following:

  • NYC/Boston (Not really into drinking and partying, but love the energy and diversity of NY and the intellectualism of Boston)
  • Philadelphia (The History and just East Coast in general)
  • Chicago/D.C. (A lot of people, young, vibrant)
  • Austin/Portland (I like their eccentric culture, but don't love them because I'm more into diversity at this stage)

However, I've found it hard to find a place that matches the critieria:

  • Under 400k
  • Multi-Unit
  • Urban and Young
  • Good rental or Airbnb market
  • Good investment and growth to follow

The best contender so far would be Chicago where some duplexes surrounding Hyde Park (mainly South of it) near University of Chicago seem to have some affordable multi units. New York and Boston are 2 expensive, and the others seem to have good multi units.

Any where else I'm missing? Help me decide where to move, thanks!

@Devin Wynn Don't rule Boston out.  Parts of the city (Downtown, South Boston, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Charlestown) are much more expensive.  

However, I just ran a quick MLS search and found two sub-$400K duplexes. One in Mattapan which in my opinion is one of the next places to gentrify and see large price gains, and another in Hyde Park, which is a good solid neighborhood.

I'd reconsider the plan a bit... Unless you have the capital to pay cash for a duplex you are going to have a difficult (zero chance) time at obtaining a loan.

Thanks for the help guys! Will definitely check out Atlanta (Amazon HQ2?) and Boston more. Dan, I've gotten a pretty good loan approval so far (I will put over 33% down payment and have a good income).

Hi Devin 

Sounds like an intriguing project. 

You may want to keep looking at Atlanta. I think there are more walkable restaurants now and a more dynamic cultural scene. I am on my phone and can't get hyper links here but search for Michaela G who's posted on artists in Atlanta and interesting developments with the Belt Line. 

If you suffer from allergies though I've heard it can be brutal there bc it's so green

What about Philadelphia? I saw it on your list initially. Seems like some artists and media types that don't have to be in NYC every day might be moving there, not sure

I love Chicago too and notice it appears on a lot of Global Gateway city lists (like NY, Boston, DC and some West Coast cities do). But at a cheaper price than those cities. Maybe the weather holds it back

I'm a Boston native and just finished a coffee inside the massive, beautiful central public library here with names of philosophers like Kant carved into the wall. There is a public radio station broadcasting from this coffee shop even. So as intellectual as you can get. But the prices here have skyrocketed and I'm not sure some of the cheaper areas will give you the intellectual vibe you'd like. 

Maybe they will but I haven't seen any independent coffee shops, yoga studios etc opening in those areas, not one, so you may have a long haul unless you open one yourself (which I always thought might be an interesting real estate value add strategy). Not to sound like a cliche yuppie hipster :) 

Ok now I feel a bit guilty for not promoting Boston!

Malden might be above your price range but I saw an article that said how one end of the Orange Line (Malden) prices at half the square foot of the other (jamaica plain) . 

The JP end has beautiful parks, cafes, restaurants etc but Malden is closer to Cambridge, Somerville. 

I'd investigate flood risk in Malden as sometimes being close to a river is more dangerous than it seems.

Hi again, just wanted to add that I do think Hyde Park and Mattapan could be good investments as both have transport links and some leafy streets. When I was growing up Hyde Park was in places more expensive than JP. But I guess I currently see them as a family place or professionals commuting into the city, and maybe a bit quiet in terms of nightlife. Of course that could change in the future.

@Devin Wynn , @Charlie MacPherson

@Jennifer Stillman I grew up in JP.  It's a very mixed bag.

The Jamaicaway and Moss Hill are HYPER expensive.  South St towards Forest Hills is less desirable, Hyde Square less so and in the area of the Heath St projects even less - so the particular part of JP makes a huge difference.  

Even 1/4 mile, say from the Jamaicaway to Hyde Square, will make an enormous difference in price.

That said, the average MFR sold in JP in the last 6 months went for $1.25M and the average SFR went for $954K.

Compare to Hyde Park where the average MFR went for $574K and the average SFR went for $432K.

Compare to Mattapan where the average MFR went for $602K and the average SFR went for $377K.

Compare to Roxbury where the average MFR went for $1.11M and the average SFR went for $886K.

My opinion is that Mattapan is going to gentrify fairly soon-ish, as skyrocketing prices downtown will push less affluent buyers to places like this that are more affordable.  

Roxbury will too.  I recently saw a 3-plex that needed about $150K - $200K in renovation sell for over $900K.  Given the crime problem that Roxbury has, that's pretty impressive.

Roxbury has proximity to the medical area and colleges, so if it's not already too late, really has potential.  Mattapan is a little further out, but not much.  Same for Dorchester.

Of course, if Amazon HQ2 lands in Boston with 50,000 jobs, that's going to put a lot of pressure on housing.

Hi Charlie, back on my phone so can't link to you (I'll contact the BP service team about this) 

Small world, I grew up in JP too, in one of the less desirable places you listed :) 

I totally agree on potential price appreciation for Hyde Park and Mattapan, I just haven't observed the bohemian factor yet. For some that's a positive for some a negative. 

@Devin Wynn You can buy a duplex in DC for under 400K but its going to be in a transitioning neighborhood. I would consider looking into 4 units with a cheap residential loan. You will spend more, but due to the increased rents you will probably cover a larger percentage of your monthly mortgage. You will need over 600K in DC, but you can use an FHA loan up to $1,223,475.00 for 4 unit...3.5% down. Good luck!

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