In the past few years, New Orleans has been affected by a series of natural catastrophes that caused significant material damage as well as the loss of lives. The real estate market was also affected by the hurricane and is only now beginning to recuperate. Even so, at $130,000, the median home sale price in New Orleans remains noticeably lower than the national average. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the city has witnessed a drop in population along with an increase in apartment vacancy rates. In fact, until a couple of years ago, New Orleans had one of the highest vacancy rates in the entire country. However, things have come a long way since then. With the development of new housing units and reconstruction of hurricane-damaged property, occupancy rates have been on the rise. Since a large number of people are starting over from the scratch, rent-to-own plans have emerged as a popular option.
Ownership distribution patterns remain fairly uniform. There isn't a lot of difference between the percentage of owned and rented homes. Significantly enough, the rise in occupancy rates of residential property has been accompanied by a surge in the commercial real estate sector. With reconstruction in full swing, retail and commercial ventures have shown the willingness to invest in New Orleans real estate, leading to a rise in commercial property sales in late 2012.
As with other sectors, school systems have also improved significantly in the years following Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the hurricane, the New Orleans Public School system was among the worst performing education systems in the country. However, in the wake of Katrina, RSD, or the Recovery School District of Louisiana, took matters into its hands, making some drastic reforms and overhauling the entire bureaucracy. Soon enough, results were evident as the graduation rate rose from a disappointing 55 percent to a healthy 75 percent. RSD directly runs close to 30 schools and grants charters to another 30 or so, thus controlling a majority of the education system and making New Orleans the only city where more than half the children go to public chartered schools. Even when the positive changes in the school system are taken into consideration, the truth is that New Orleans school system is still lagging behind in terms of hard statistics, infrastructure, and overall student development. However, if recent trends are anything to go by, this could soon be a thing of the past.
Weather and Climate
Geographically, New Orleans is surrounded by water on three sides and is situated at latitude 29.9 N, which means that it has a typical subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid while winters last for only a short time and are moderately cold. July and August are extremely humid (sometimes, unbearably so) while other months are fairly pleasant with the average temperature hovering somewhere around the 70F mark. Having said that, it's hard to make definitive statements about New Orleans weather as temperatures fluctuate significantly within a single day. Rainfall is usually sudden and can cause a dip in temperatures. It's no secret that the city is prone to hurricanes, especially in the months between June to November.
The neighborhoods of New Orleans reflect the cultural vibrancy of the city. Besides boasting of French architecture and antique houses, most neighborhoods also have a high walk score (an index of how pedestrian friendly an area is and how much work you can get done on foot). Here is a brief list of some of the most prominent areas in the city:
French Quarter: Also known as Vieux Carre, the French Quarter is the region of original settlement. The historic appeal, coupled with its strategic location (it is home to the city's major landmarks like Bourbon Street and Jackson Square) have made this one of the most sought-after districts in the country. And also one of the most expensive.
Central Business District (CBD): Often described as New Orleans' downtown, CBD has everything going for itself. It is very close to the French Quarter and boasts of some of the city's best restaurants, cocktail bars, and shopping stores, not to mention the Superdome--home of the Saints! It is a tad bit cheaper than the French Quarter but still expensive by New Orleans standards.
Marigny: Situated along the shore of the Mississippi River, Marigny is known for its beautifully built houses, from shotguns to Creole cottages to French-style mansions. Property prices tend to be more affordable, and it is sufficiently close to both the CBD and the French Quarter.
Garden District: A quintessential example of the Greek influence on the city's culture and architecture, the Garden District is known for its exquisite mansions, its commercial center--called Magazine Street--and, of course, its opulent gardens.