Sep. 26, 2012 at 8:04 AM ET
Since home prices peaked in the beginning of 2006, the U.S. median home price is down by a third. And though the market has begun to show signs of bottoming out, prices are still down nationally by 1.9 percent from last year and are expected to fall an additional 1 percent from the beginning of this year through 2013.
Of the 384 largest housing markets measured by real estate data company Fiserv, 69 have seen home prices fall more than the national average. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the markets with the worst home price declines from their pre-recession peak. Of those metro areas, we identified the markets where the median price did not improve in any of the periods measured by Fiserv as of the first quarter of 2012. The 10 worst are housing markets that have fallen at least 55 percent and have yet to recover.
While the drop in home prices in these markets has slowed, the local economies have been devastated. July unemployment rates in the worst housing markets were all above the national rate of 8.1 percent. Eight of the 10 have rates of at least 10 percent, and five are above 12 percent. Merced, Calif., one of the 10 worst-off cities, had an unemployment rate of 17.8 percent in July, the fourth-highest in the country.
According Fiserv chief economist David Stiff, the unemployment rates and languishing home prices in these markets are indicative of the underlying problems in these states as a whole. “The reason the job markets are so weak in these metro areas is that during the boom more than half of the growth was generated either directly or indirectly by residential real estate, and so now the reverse has happened,” Stiff explained.
Further evidence of the economic troubles heaped on these cities, three of the housing markets — San Bernardino, Vallejo and Stockton — have filed for bankruptcy since the recession began. Stockton’s Chapter 9 filing represents the largest such case in U.S. history.
Continually depressed home prices also have led to unusually high foreclosure rates in these markets. According to foreclosure data from RealtyTrac, a site that tracks housing data, these cities had among the worst foreclosure rates in the country as of the second quarter of 2012. Of the 10 cities, eight are among the 20 with the highest foreclosure rates out of the 212 metro regions with populations of 200,000 or more.
Of the cities with the worst home price declines, some have begun to recover. In the Detroit metro area, which did not make the list, the median home price has declined by 55.8 percent from the first quarter of 2006. However, between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, the median price went up by 8.6 percent, one of the largest increases in the country.
Like Detroit, many of the the 10 worst-off markets appear to be about to recover because buyers see bargains. Home prices in seven of the 10 metro areas were lower than the national median of $159,000. Fiserv projects that of the 10 housing markets on our list, five will increase by more than the national rate of 5 percent between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. This includes the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach region, which Fiserv projects will have more than 10 percent growth in median home value in that time. Stiff confirmed this: “Investors, who were part of the problem back in the boom years, will be trying to jump into these markets at a low.”
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Fiserv to determine the 10 metropolitan areas that had no annual improvement in their housing markets from the first quarter of 2007, the first quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011, all through the first quarter of 2012. We relied on RealtyTrac for data on foreclosure rates and foreclosure sales (both for second quarter of 2012). We also obtained seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for July from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
These are the 10 towns that cannot turn around.
1. Merced, Calif.
Nowhere in the U.S. have home prices taken the beating they have in Merced where the median price of a home has fallen at an annualized rate of 19.2 percent in the past five years. That's the highest rate in the country. Sadly, prices are not expected to begin to rise in 2012, as Fiserv predicts home prices will fall another 4.4 percent between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. Though home prices were possibly overvalued at their peak, when the median mortgage payment cost 51 percent of monthly income, they would appear to be undervalued now; the median mortgage payment costs just 10 percent of monthly income. The decline in home value has been especially costly for some homeowners, as one in every 90.3 homes was in foreclosure, and 55 percent of all home sales were foreclosure sales. The massive decline in home prices has also caused significant damage to the local economy — the unemployment rate in Merced was 17.8 percent, higher than almost all other metropolitan areas.
2. Modesto, Calif.
Over the past five years Modesto’s median home price has fallen from 7.5 times median family income to just 2.5 times median family income. Though homes in the area have become more affordable, such price declines have devastated present and current homeowners. The area had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the nation at slightly higher than one in every 69 homes, and 57 percent of all homes sold were foreclosed properties. In few places has the economy been weakened by a housing collapse more than in Modesto, where the unemployment rate stood at 15.7 percent, the ninth highest rate nationwide.
3. Stockton, Calif.
When Stockton filed for bankruptcy in June, it became the largest-ever U.S. city to do so, according to The Wall Street Journal. The city’s economy has been plagued for years by constantly falling home prices, which declined at an annualized rate of 16.6 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2012. Stockton also has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates of 15 percent and a foreclosure rate that leads the nation with one in every 66.2 homes in foreclosure. Though Fiserv projects home prices will rise at an annualized rate of nearly 6 percent between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2017, the housing market remains weak. Fifty-four percent of all second-quarter home sales were foreclosure sales, and the number of property listings in July was down more than 40 percent year-over-year.
4. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
No metropolitan area outside California has seen as large and unabated decline in home prices as Las Vegas. While home prices in other metro areas on this list are expected to improve in the near future, home prices in Las Vegas are projected by Fiserv to decline through at least the first quarter of 2014. Home prices in the area are already low enough that the average discount for purchasing a foreclosed home was just 15.2 percent, less than half the 31.7 percent average discount nationwide.
5. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.
The Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., metro area home price drop of more than 60 percent since the first quarter of 2006 was the sixth-worst decline during the housing market collapse of the 384 regions measured by Fiserv. Despite the decline, the area’s median home price was still in the top 15 percent, largely because the area contains California’s famous wine region, the Napa Valley. Median family income was among the top 40 in the country at $76,100. Despite this, one in every 71.4 homes was in foreclosure as of the second quarter of this year, the fourth-highest rate in the country.