5 Cities That Aren't Seeing a Housing Recovery

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The long-running housing bust seems to have finally ended in most of the country, but here's a look at five markets where the bad times roll on.

"These markets are great bargains relative to the rest of the country, but that comes with a price: You're probably not going to see home values recover or increase there as much as in other areas," says Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac, which recently ranked the five metro areas dead last in its Housing Market Recovery Index.

RealtyTrac's index scores 100 of America's largest metro areas based on seven measures of market health, from the local jobless rate to how many homeowners are "underwater" (owing more on their mortgages that their properties are worth).

Blomquist says cities at the very bottom of the list mostly sit in the Pennsylvania/Maryland area, which he says appears to suffer from "a combination of lingering foreclosures and an economy that's not rebounding much."

The expert adds that the nation's weakest housing markets are also all in states that have "judicial" foreclosure rules, which require lenders to go through long court processes to seize homes.

States with "non-judicial" rules generally allow quicker property seizures, which reduce consumer protections but help clear up foreclosure backlogs more rapidly.

"I think it's logical that judicial-foreclosure states would have markets that are lagging the recovery the most, because they still have more foreclosures lingering around than other places do," Blomquist says.

Check out a rundown below of cities that RealtyTrac found are trailing the U.S. housing rebound by the greatest margin. (Or, click here to see five cities that are leading the recovery.)

A score of 100 equals the national average for all factors analyzed, while home-pricing figures refer to the median sale price for all houses, condos and townhouses in a given market.

All figures are as of June 30 and cover the 100 most-populous U.S. metro areas except for communities in states where public property records don't include sale prices.

No. 5 lagging market: Hagerstown, Md.
Score:
84.7 (100 = U.S. average)

Considered a Washington, D.C., "exurb," this community some 70 miles northwest from the nation's capital makes RealtyTrac's list partly because of its large number of underwater properties.

RealtyTrac estimates that 35% of Hagerstown homeowners whose properties aren't all paid off owe more to their mortgage lenders than the residences are worth. That's well above the 26% U.S. average.

The firm also found that while foreclosure filings in the 269,000-person metro area have fallen 43% from their worst levels, that's less of an improvement than the 65% average drop seen across the country.

Lastly, Hagerstown's median home prices have only rebounded 13% after bottoming out in April 2012. That lags the 19% average recovery for America as a whole.

"Hagerstown is one of those exurbs where there may have been some people willing to drive that far to get an affordable property during the housing boom, but nobody wants to drive that far any more," Blomquist says.

No. 4 lagging market: Philadelphia
Score:
82.7

Homebuyers aren't showing the Philadelphia metro area much brotherly love, with the market trailing U.S. averages in almost every metric that RealtyTrac looked at.

Blomquist says Philadelphia housing is doing a particularly bad job of attracting institutional investors, defined in the study as any company or individual who buys 10 or more properties a year anywhere in America.

RealtyTrac found that such buyers account for just 3% of property deals in Philadelphia, compared with 9% nationwide. "Philadelphia is a market that institutional investors are just not very interested in."

Philly has also seen a sub-par 32% decline in foreclosure filings, while median home prices have rebounded only a below-average 16% from their March 2012 bottom.

No. 3 lagging market: Rockford, Ill.
Score:
82.4

Located some 50 miles from Chicago's outer suburbs (and with major employers such as Sears ( SHLD), whose world headquarters are in suburban Hoffman Estates), Rockford is another community that Blomquist believes once attracted "exurban" buyers but no longer does.

Add in an 11% local jobless rate -- the highest among the five communities at the bottom of RealtyTrac's rankings -- and the 348,000-population Rockford area looks anything but rock solid when it comes to housing.

Some 43% of homeowners whose residences aren't all paid off are underwater, while distressed sales -- transactions involving properties in some stage of the foreclosure process -- account for 31% of all deals. (The U.S. average is 23%.)

All told, Rockford's median home prices have rebounded only 15% from their March 2012 trough. Again, that's below the 19% U.S. average.

No. 2 lagging market: Allentown, Pa.
Score:
80.6

Billy Joel once sang about Allentown's hard times, and the 821,000-person metro area's problems certainly extend to its housing market.

Blomquist says one of the most telling signs of trouble is the fact that institutional investors account for just 4% of Allentown's home sales, or less than half of the 9% rate nationwide.

He sees that as an indication that the large private-equity funds that are pouring big bucks into the U.S. housing market these days are skipping the community even though it's just 90 miles west of Wall Street.

"Allentown just isn't a place where these Wall Street-backed investors are looking or think is a good market to invest in," Blomquist says.

The community has also seen a below-average 41% drop in foreclosure filings, while median home prices have rebounded just 9% after bottoming out this past March. That's less than half of the typical recovery seen nationwide.

No. 1 lagging market: Baltimore
Score:
80.4

The only "more" in Baltimore's housing market these days seems to be more foreclosure filings.

RealtyTrac's study found that filings fell by a below-average 26% from their peak as of June -- and things have actually gotten worse since then.

Filings rebounded during the third quarter to hit 6,084, or triple the number recorded during the same period last year.

"That's one of the biggest red flags of a market that's lagging the recovery," says Blomquist, who notes that 70% of U.S. metro areas saw third-quarter foreclosure filings fall rather than rise on a year-over-year basis.

Adding to the Charm City housing market's lack of charm is that fact that median Baltimore home prices have recovered just 9% since bottoming out in March. Again, that's less than half of the 19% average U.S. rebound.

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