THE United States is clearly unwell. It has been stricken by more extreme doses of crime and the deep recession has taken a sorry toll. But the news is not all bad - at least not for careful investors. Some places have suffered less than others. And the new ''doctor'' - Clinton - claims he has the remedies. From the outside looking in, the US does not appear to be the land of opportunity it once was. People still flock there, though, and many prosper. Just now, the prospects are good for investors who choose the right destination. The recession is easing, markets are low and growth is expected. In property terms, it could be a nice time to buy. According to real estate agents, Realty Pacific Sallmans, there is no better place. Two cities are top with the firm - Seattle, in Washington, and Houston, in Texas. A recent Fortune magazine survey called the pair ''the best cities for business'' in the US. Seattle is growing, largely thanks to its expanding technology base and manufacturing competitiveness. Houston is picking itself up from the energy and property crash in the 1980s which wiped out more than 200,000 jobs. All were brought back - and another 52,000 have been added since 1990 - thanks to a more diverse economy. Mr Philip Greenstein, senior property negotiator, said: ''People can't take the life in the big traditional cities any more. ''A city like Seattle is the most beautiful place. There are mountain ranges on both sides. I want to live there.'' Fortune claimed the cities, together with Atlanta, were making a play to replace the international hubs. Seattle's business community is thinking less of itself as America's northwest and more as the Pacific's northeast. Its political leaders see a series of urban villages sprouting up around the city to accommodate the influx of people. According to Mr Andrew Lam, an associate at Realty Pacific, the two beat America's other major cities hands down in real estate investment. Hongkong investors were just as keen on Houston's similar climatical conditions as its attractive property prices, Mr Lam said. Present political uncertainties in Hongkong are also making more look at investing abroad. Potential investors should do their homework before entering the buying market. Good financial advice from the experts is a must. Investigating the cash flow is essential. Homes are cheap in the two favoured cities. If you buy a house in Houston for US$100,000, the same one would cost you three times that much in Los Angeles or San Francisco. The same house in Seattle would cost you $200,000. Mr Lam said taxes in the US were also favourable. Unlike the situation in Canada, investors did not have to pay withholding tax. ''The housing markets in Houston and Seattle are very reasonable,'' he added. ''In Seattle, unemployment is falling, people are moving in and the property market is going up.'' Because of land preservation policies, property is becoming scarce - forcing prices up. Realty Pacific is attempting to sell the last of the houses in its Saltwater Highlands Development. Prices are about $149,950. In Houston, the firm has been successful in selling the Westwood Garden estate. Mr Lam said there were plans to promote new developments in both cities in the near future. The company expects appreciation of between eight and 10 per cent in Seattle this year. The same rates should apply in Houston within three years.