A few years ago I was touring a down-and-out portion of City X (it doesn’t really matter—could be any city) for the first time, when a colleague of mine made the observation: “You can immediately tell that land values are low here; just look at all these used car dealerships!” I concurred without saying anything; I didn’t need to. It seemed like a truism. Of course this area was low-rent. It had bombed-out factories, a trash-clogged creek, the occasional boarded-up house, and retail that is generally not associated with anything but poor neighborhoods. But where did those used car lots fit in?
I’ve since thought about her observation in a number of urban environments that I have visited, large and small, and—no surprise—this correlation plays out everywhere. But the statement needs refinement: not every used car dealership automatically signals depressed real estate. Specifically, the mom-and-pop, unlicensed dealers not tethered to a regionally known last name offer the best examples of cheap land: in other words, the polar opposite of Hubler or Ray Skillman or Pedigo.