Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Went to New Orleans Recently

The family just got back from a visit to New Orleans. We stayed in a rental condo just outside of the French Quarter, near Decatur and Frenchmen streets. It was a great place to stay.

We spent the majority of our time in the French Quarter. We did have to run over to Slidell for a wedding reception (1/2 of the reason for the trip). We did, however, see some of the left-over damage from Hurricane Katrina. We spotted a few things on the way in along I-10. The Six Flags park is closed... and not coming back. There were areas where all of the trees were dead. We were told that the ones that didn't get taken down by the winds died from the salt water that flooded into the area from the canal/levee breaches. The drive to the Quarter from the interstate also showed us a few damaged houses.

From the perspective of a tourist, New Orleans is back. The "touristy" things have pretty well recovered. The city knows that right now, their most valuable resources are visitors. Not only has the city government embraced visitors, but the businesses that cater to visitors have embraced us as well. I can't count how many times I heard "Just tell everyone you know that we are here... and want them to come, too." So, I am. Bourbon Street was friendly. Drink prices were pretty good. Cover charges didn't exist. The bands were good... and plentiful.

From the perspective of a resident, there is a LOT of work that needs to be done. So many businesses have just stayed out it is amazing. The Home Depot, and daiquiri stands (even far from Bourbon Street) are doing well. But, there are so many holes in the business fabric of New Orleans it is amazing. We were also told that housing is still short.

From a real estate investor standpoint... things look wide open. I think that one could go in and buy entire subdivisions. Mid-priced and entry level homes look to be needed. Commercial property in plentiful, but finished space is at a premium in many areas. One of the biggest opportunities I see is to revamp larger tracts that are nearer the city center, and raise the price level of the area. There also look to be some great opportunities with some of the apartment complexes. I would say that refitting, and converting to condo could have a HUGE profit potential. Even with very affordable pricing, some of the complexes might be turnable for very good margins. The main challenge looks to be getting workers in that aren't already so b usy that they can walk from your work.

Bottom line... Go visit New Orleans. They need you. And it is a great time to see the sights.

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