The high-quality market data insight is very expensive, and the free market research sources are quite low quality. If you have a relationship with a firm who has a Costar, REIS, or Real Capital Analytics membership, they'll be able to give you accurate detailed market information. However, I like the following free resources:
1) US Census: Check out population trends to get an idea of growing MSAs
2) Trulia Crime Map: Great visual resource to locate high-crime neighborhoods
3) Apartments.com: Helpful when looking for rent comps -- Costar uses the same data-set in its research
4) National Apartment Association: NAA's annual operating income & expense report provides high level data that can be used with a "quick calc." Their paid reports provide market-level detail.
DealFlow might be a good pick for smaller stuff. Otherwise I highly recommend looking at HouseCanary.
I would add that a lot of the subscriptions are expensive and not worth it if you're starting out. You can always request your broker to give you specific stats around market, sub-market, economics and other comps.
An article you will find useful: Choosing the Right US Market To Invest In: The 4-Step Guide to Success
Commercial real estate reports are a good resource to narrow down your search. Here are some of my favorites:
- IRR's Annual "Commercial Real Estate Trends" Report
- PWC's Annual "Emerging Trends in Real Estate" Report
- CBRE's Biannual "North American Cap Rate Survey" Report
- RCLCO's Quarterly "State of the Real Estate Market" Report
- Marcus and Millichap's Annual "Multifamily Investment Forecast" Report
If you search for those terms in Google, you can find and download each report.
But you always want to perform your own analysis, looking at factors like unemployment, population and population age, job diversity, top employers, and supply and demand data (new construction, vacancy rates, median rental rate, etc.)
You are correct on the pricing of high quality market data. I do have a relationship with a brokerage out of Seattle that we are currently utilizing and it has been great information to have. We plan to build more relationships like this one in new areas of the country. Its hard to be hard work, commitment, and networking when it comes to this area.
As far as the US census, do you find that much of this data is outdated? Much of it is based off of previous years data.
I have not checked into NAA reports, but I plan to do so.
That article is great, much appreciated!
Of the list that I shared, the census data is actually my favorite. It is backward looking, but I like how it paints a picture of population migration over time. For example, you'll find Chicago has been shrinking over a number decades while other major metropolitan areas have seen continued growth.