Fundamentals of Real Estate Markets

The fundamentals of real estate span across three broad categories: acquisitions, operations, and dispositions. You’ve gone through a complete cycle when you own a property, manage it, and ultimately sell it.

Investors either do these things themselves or partner with experts to do it for them. But where does it all start? For 37th Parallel Properties, it begins with market analysis. Finding healthy real estate markets to invest in is a key to success that should not be underestimated.

As you’ve probably heard before, all real estate is local. So, the market conditions in Jacksonville will vary from those in Boston. Aoston’s market conditions will be different from those in Kansas City.

You must know your market before investing in any apartment building. The following are seven factors that can help you identify a quality market worthy of your investment dollars.

Job Growth

One of the first signs that successful real estate investors look for when evaluating a real estate opportunity is job growth or decline in that area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data on the cities, states, and nationwide labor market. Investing in markets with healthy job growth is part of real estate fundamentals.

Declining or negative job growth in a market is problematic, especially if those job losses are sustained. Positive job growth is ideal, mainly when it’s long-standing.

Population Growth

Regarding economic development, it is clear that people follow jobs. So, the fundamentals of real estate demand that investors look for markets with population growth. This growth should be significant and sustained over a long period. 

Sustained population growth leads to increased population density. Population growth drives household formation, and the more people in an area, the more housing is needed to shelter them. 

Therefore, population growth drives the demand for housing. You are investing in apartments in markets where the high demand for housing bodes well for your success.

Diversity of Jobs

Since it’s essential to find markets with sustained population growth, it should make sense that you also want to guard against any precipitous loss of those populations. 

What could do that?

As I mentioned earlier, people follow jobs. So, a steep job loss could lead to a subsequent population loss. 

The risk of this happening increases when most jobs within a market are centered around one industry. A classic example is military communities subject to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). When those bases close, jobs disappear, and people leave those communities if the military is the primary source of employment.

When investing in commercial real estate or apartments, your success shouldn’t depend on the success of a single industry. Instead, you want to invest in markets with diverse jobs. Those jobs should be created by a thriving private sector, government, health care, and institutions of higher learning, all of which contribute to the labor market.

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Fundamentals of Real Estate Says to Avoid Landlord Unfriendly States & Municipalities

Rental agreements are contracts between an apartment building owner and a renter who wishes to live in that building. The contract spells out the terms of the agreement. 

Generally, the renter agrees to pay their rent promptly and avoid destructive and disruptive behavior in the apartment community. The owner should agree to provide a clean living place where repairs and maintenance are taken care of expeditiously.

Apartment investors should understand that whatever markets they invest in will be subject to three layers of real estate law and regulation – federal, state, and local. These regulations can instantly turn a great deal into a headache for real estate professionals.

Federal regulation is the easiest to comply with and makes the most sense. The two big federal laws landlords must comply with are the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

The Fair Housing Act says landlords can’t discriminate against people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires landlords to get permission to pull a prospective renter’s credit report and inform the prospective tenant if they deny their rental application based on something contained within that credit report. 

These laws are common sense and common decency. Even if the federal government hadn’t mandated them, owners should operate under these principles anyway. 

Unfortunately, state and local laws can vary wildly throughout the real estate industry. And some of those laws make little to no sense. Nevertheless, both owners and renters are subject to those laws as well. Therefore, it’s essential to think twice before investing in apartments where the landlord-tenant laws are unduly burdensome to owners. 

Growing Median Incomes

The multifamily market consists of affordable housing and market-rate housing. Affordable housing is government-subsidized housing. The government primarily subsidizes rentals for low-income people through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Section 8.

The government does not subsidize market-rate housing. Its monthly rents are set by the market and can go up and down depending on a myriad of factors related to supply and demand. But if you’re investing in healthy markets with population and job growth, you’re likely to see rent growth and home prices follow.

Rent growth is a positive factor for investors, but if it’s not matched with income growth, it can burden the renter. 

Keeping market-rate rentals affordable to renters is a fundamental of real estate that benefits both the investor and the renter. Investing in markets where incomes are rising is wise for the short and long term.

Affordability of Market Rate Apartments

If growing median income is an important factor in both market health and rental affordability, then what is considered affordable?

If you look at financial wellness checklists, most financial advisors recommend capping housing spending at 30%- 33% of income.

REALPAGE Analytics researched this topic and found that the current rent-to-income ratio is 23% nationally. That’s a healthy number, but as I said earlier, all real estate is local. Some markets have affordable market-rate rents, while others do not. 

Monthly rents will vary depending on the different properties, but it is best not to be at the extreme ends of the spectrum. It is smart to invest in markets that have affordable rents. If you’re contemplating investing in a real estate market where the rent-to-income ratio is above 30%, be sure that the market complies with the next section.

Renting Apartments Should Be More Affordable Than Owning a Home

When renting is more affordable than owning a house, real estate fundamentals align with what you should be looking for in a market. The more significant the gap between home and apartment rental prices, the better the environment for investing in rental property. 

Even if rents rise above what is considered affordable, renting will still be popular if renting is less than owning a home.


The fundamentals of real estate are complex, but if you want to make money investing in apartments, it’s important that you get them right. Professional apartment investors know that the first step is market analysis and finding the right markets to invest in. 

Successful real estate investors never invest in a property, no matter how good the deal is, without knowing the quality of the market. These seven factors should help you find quality markets in which to invest your hard-earned money. But before becoming a landlord, be sure you have the time, energy, and expertise to invest in apartments actively. 

Want to learn more about the financials behind real estate investing? We’ve written articles to help new investors identify the cash flow, capital appreciation, tax advantages of real estate investing, and how to manage your property. 

If you’d instead not become a landlord, that doesn’t mean you can’t invest in apartments. There are a few ways to avoid the headaches of property management.  Instead, it would be best to consider partnering with a professional with a track record of success. You can do this through a real estate investment fund, like 37th Parallel Properties Income and Total Return Fund

How can we help?

Whether you’re an experienced investor or new to direct multifamily investing, we’re here to help.

We look forward to hearing from you.