Since the late 1970s casino-rich Atlantic City, N.J., has been a beachfront escape for poker aficionados and Keno-loving retirees from Philadelphia, Northern New Jersey and New York.
Today, buying a home in Atlantic City is a gamble. Of 315 cities measured by Local Market Monitor, a Cary, N.C.-based real estate research firm, the Atlantic City metro is expected to experience the largest drop in home value over the next 12 months. A pocket of Northwestern cities where restrictions on building have artificially inflated prices, and smaller metros whose housing markets have benefited from internal migration, join Atlantic City on our list of real estate trouble spots.
Like cities in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, Atlantic City saw a dramatic run-up in prices during the housing boom due, in part, to speculative purchases of second homes; Atlantic County includes popular beachfront spots such as Margate. But while those bubble markets have already burst, Atlantic City still has significant price depreciation ahead; Local Market Monitor predicts the metro's median home price will fall 9 percent in the next year.
"We have not seen the bottom in that market," says Jeffrey Otteau, president of East Brunswick, New Jersey-based Otteau Valuation Group, who says the city is still saddled with 12 months of unsold housing inventory.
As the effects of the recession sink in, the market for second homes in the metro has all but dried up, delaying a local recovery. What's more, tumbling revenues for the gambling industry have cost casino workers jobs, damaging the area's employment base.
To put together our list of housing markets expected to drop, Local Market Monitor measured 315 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and selected the ones where it anticipated average home prices would fall most in the next 12 months. It then narrowed the list to cities where actual average home prices were at least 10 percent above their equilibrium price — that's where home prices should be based on economic fundamentals, and the price to which they will likely return. LMM calculates its equilibrium price and home value forecast based on trends in local jobs and income as well as the historic movement of home prices. Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.
Cities in the Pacific Northwest appear on our list, in part, because some of the strictest land planning policies in the country have curbed sprawl and propped prices.
"It's very hard to overbuild in this region, because of urban growth boundaries and a fairly limited supply of developable property," says Randall Pozdena, managing director of ECONorthwest, a Eugene, Ore.-based consultancy. "Wages are 20 to 30 percent below what wages in the Bay Area are, but home prices are relatively high. We've created an artificial scarcity situation."
In Portland, Ore., homes are overvalued by 31 percent; in Bellingham, Wash., housing is 22 percent overpriced and in Eugene, Ore. homes are 21 percent more than they should be. Local Market Monitor expects prices in Portland to fall 9 percent in the next year; Eugene prices to drop by 8 percent; and Bellingham to see a 9 percent fall.
Smaller metros like Glens Falls, N.Y., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Salisbury, Md., all of which have a population under 200,000, are expected to see home prices drop 11 percent, 13 percent and 8 percent, respectively in the next year. In these places, small shifts in the local economy can cause big ripples.
"If you have one or two large employers in a smaller metro, they will have a greater impact on the jobs and income situation," says Carolyn Beggs, Local Market Monitor COO. "In larger metros there are more employers, so each employer won't have as great an effect."
All but two of the cities on our list saw above-average rates of population growth in the first half of the last decade. Some, like Provo, Utah, and Portland, Ore., saw their head counts rise by double-digit numbers (22 percent and 18 percent, respectively). Because in-migration typically boosts demand for housing, the national recession is due to take a particular toll on them.
"During a recession internal migration within the U.S. drops sharply," says Ingo Wizner, president of Local Market Monitor, noting that relocating becomes less financially feasible in hard times."Home prices in these markets are likely to fall for several years, but will then recover as above-average population growth resumes." Both Provo, a college town, and trendy Portland have sustaining appeal to young movers, which will likely pick up along with economic recovery.
Pozdena's outlook about Portland and other Pacific Northwest cities is more measured. While he predicts a short-term softening in prices in Portland, Bellingham and Eugene, he believes that limits to growth and continued in-migration will keep demand high.
© 2012 Forbes.com