While the housing market may still be under water, not all areas of real estate are as hard hit as the housing industry was. According the American Institute of Architects (AIA), U.S. architecture billings are now at the highest level since December of 2007. To be sure, this index is just one piece of data and even the AIA says its still too soon to call a recovery. Still, markets are forward-looking creatures and such news could mean opportunity for those companies who benefit from nonresidential construction.

IN PICTURES: 5 Simple Ways To Invest In Real Estate

Building Profits
Diversified construction companies stand the best chance to benefit from any slight improvements in non-residential construction. Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) is one of the more diverse options. Shares, like many industrial blue chips in 2010, have had a good year. The company trades at under 15 forward earnings and yields an decent 2.3%. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) will also benefit, but it's likely that the stock price has already built most of gains. At $94 a share, the stock is up nearly 100% from its 52 week low. While it trades for 31-times earnings today, the estimated profit surge in 2011 has its forward P/E multiple at 16. If we are in the middle of strong cycle, shares could still deliver an attractive record in 2011.

Building Under the Radar
Despite an amazing year end rally, shares in Terex (NYSE:TEX) may still offer great upside. Terex is a $3.3 billion market cap with a minor net debt on the balance sheet. Shares currently trade for 12.9-times earnings. Since the recession took hold and decimated the company's sales volume, Terex has repositioned by strengthening the balance sheet. Management's efforts during the worst of times inspires confidence that the company can prosper through the recovery.

Tutor Perini (NYSE:TPC) is another diversified construction firm that could be poised to take off. The company has a market cap of $1 billion with over $100 million in net cash. Shares trade at 26% discount to book value and under 9 times earnings. Earlier in the month, the company was upgraded by UBS.

The Bottom Line
The best time to buy stocks is when no one is looking at them. Construction companies with a non-residential focus, namely the smaller players, may be one the few areas left where investors may start looking into in 2011. (If you were hard-hit by the real estate crash, you may be wondering when things will get better for you. We show you how to keep tabs. See 8 Signs Your Neighborhood Is On The Upswing.)

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