The Foreclosure Crisis: Location, Location, Location

If you listen to media reports, you might think that there’s an astronomical foreclosure crisis affecting every neighborhood in America. But guess what? A recent study by University of Virginia researchers has revealed that 87% of the dollar losses stemming from foreclosure activity were concentrated in just four states: California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona.

Sure, you could argue that these states (or at least California and Florida) are quite large, and thus account for a disproportionate number of housing units, rendering these numbers meaningless, but consider this… California accounts for just 10% of the nation’s housing units, but it had 34% of the foreclosures in 2008.

You might also argue that expressing this in terms of dollar losses as opposed to actual foreclosures tends to skew things a bit. For example, the median home value in California in 2007 was 8.3x the median income, whereas the median home value nationally was just 3.2x the median income. In other words, prices had farther to fall in California than elsewhere, so perhaps the dollar amounts are inflated.

Looking at the raw numbers, however, reveals that these four states still account for a disproportionate number of actual foreclosures. In fact, there were just over 2.3M properties foreclosed on nationwide during 2008, with nearly half of these (just over 1.1M) happening in these four states alone.

This kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Sure, there are still other locales that are really hurting, and the housing market sucks in general, but the foreclosure crisis doesn’t appear to be nearly as widespread as the media would have us believe.

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6 Responses to “The Foreclosure Crisis: Location, Location, Location”

  1. Anonymous

    As Kelly stated, Ohio and Michigan having been experiencing large amounts of foreclosures – something you completely ignored in your posting. I saw this occurring around 2004 in the suburbs of Columbus, OH….brand new homes abandoned by owners due to job loss. One can identify the abandoned homes by the weed-infested lawns…eyesores that bring down the values of ALL homes in a subdivision.

    Foreclosures affect municipalities…less revenue to pay for infrastructure and schools. “This kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?”

  2. Anonymous

    Ohio, Detroit, Michigan and Indiana and Atlanta, Georgia must also have very high foreclosure rates in proportion to total Us housing. Only 2 counties in Ohio are getting stimulus money and they are not even the hard hit areas of the state like Dayton and Cleveland and Youngstown where auto makers and manufacturing have dried up. There are hundreds of boarded up homes in Dayton, Ohio that the city will have to demolish. Cincinnati is doing much better by buying up their vacant houses to rehab or demolish and the lists of filed foreclosures in the newspaper here in Dayton and the Miami Valley grows each week. The Midwest is in as big if not a bigger crisis than the warm sunny retiree friendly sunny states!!

  3. Anonymous

    This is really useful information. I knew it was focused on those states (the ‘sand states’ — I guess Florida counts because of the beaches?), but I had no idea it was so disproportionate.

    It’s interesting that California has been at the center of two bubbles in the last ten years: technology, and now real estate. It must be pretty exhausting! On the other hand, risk goes hand-in-hand with return, and from what I understand, the CA economy has done better than the rest of the country for a long time.

  4. Anonymous

    Interesting fact, in my area (Columbia, SC) median home values have not dropped in the past year. That being said, the number of units being put on the market are down, but the number of buyers is down even further leading to an increase in inventory (12 months worth or so now I think). So yeah, I really think the core of the crisis is in heavily inflated markets such as the ones you mentioned. There is hurt elsewhere, but it is much less severe.

  5. Anonymous

    They may be higher concentrations in those states but it doesnt offer much reassurance when I know their are 20-30 houses (10%) vacant and foreclosed in my neighborhood. My neighbor had her house on the market for 18 months for less than she owed on it and she got a deal on it when she purchased it.

    The problem may be worse in certain areas, but that doesnt necessarily mean its still good in the other areas. My city was voted one of the most affordable because of the avg household income to avg home cost ratio. Income has not gone up, housing has dripped. The real estate was not severally overpriced before the market tanked either.

    We have had several long time home builders (25+years) fold within the last year. Their are half developed communities, its not a rosy picture, hopefully it turns around in the next year or 2.

  6. Anonymous

    I think this is a really important point. Foreclosures are very concentrated, not only in the four states you mention but in particular parts of those states. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country such as Boston, where I live, foreclosures are only something we read about in the paper. I have yet to see a foreclosure sign in real life.

    The upshot is that what seems like an end-of-the-world crisis to some Americans is a sidebar to others. I think the Obama adminstration will be soon shocked at how little support there is for homeowner bailouts in most of the country.

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