No. 3 lagging market: Rockford, Ill.

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.

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