The 5 Worst Housing Markets In America

By Miranda Marquit
August 30, 2013

I'm not the fastest runner, so whenever we had to run in P.E., I quickly fell behind. 

Even as others picked up speed throughout the semester, I continued to lag behind -- never quite catching up to the pack. And even as a number of students improved their performances over time, I never did join the party.

Right now, some housing markets are about as good as keeping up with their counterparts as I was in high school P.E. 

Many cities are seeing a major recovery. In fact, the perfect storm of rising home prices combined with an insatiable renter market has some of Wall Street's biggest firms salivating at the sheer profit potential. My colleague Nathan Slaughter has written extensively about this in his High-Yield Investing newsletter and even produced a report called "Renter Nation: The Incredible Housing Story Nobody is Talking About." (Click here to see how you can get it.)

But while people in many cities are rushing to their realtor, those in some other cities haven't seen the booming house prices. For many of those, it may still feel like it is 2009.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a list of housing markets where homes are losing value -- even though national home values are up 12.2% year-over-year as of the second quarter of 2013.

Here are the 5 cities that have been hardest-hit as the rest of the nation recovers...

5. Decatur, Illinois

The median home price in Decatur for the second quarter of 2013 was $86,400, according to NAR. That represents a drop of 4.8% over the previous year. So, even as other areas are improving, Decatur continues to struggle.

Part of the problem is in the difficulty in affording a home -- even one that is way below the national median home price of $203,500. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the June 2013 unemployment rate was 11.5%. That beat the national June average of 7.6% and the Illinois average of 9.2%. 

The whole area appears to still be in the throes of recession, even though the recession has been officially over for the rest of the country for the past few years.

4. Pittsfield, Massachusetts

We don't normally think of Massachusetts as a place where there are problems. However, the town of Pittsfield has been passed by when it comes to the housing recovery. Instead of seeing improvement, the median home price is down 5% in quarter two of 2013, as compared to the second quarter of 2012. 

Even though the unemployment rate in Pittsfield was at 7.3% in June, lower than the national average (but still a little higher than the state average of 7.0%), the trend is a little more unsettling. While the year-over-year unemployment rate has been dropping nationally, the Pittsfield numbers represent an increase in unemployment from 2012 to 2013. The town is bucking the trend, and not in a good way.

3. Erie, Pennsylvania

The median home price in Erie, as of the second quarter of 2013, was $112,800 -- a drop of 5.7% year over year. Inventory continues to rise in Erie, making it a little difficult for housing prices to recover.

However, things might turn around for Erie. With unemployment down to 7.3% in June 2013, the city beat the national and state average. Additionally, the employment situation has improved since 2012. So, even though the housing market continues to struggle, if the employment situation continues to improve, there is a chance that things could turn around eventually as workers are better able to afford homes.

2. Florence, South Carolina

The median home price of $124,600 in Florence represents a drop of 8.4%, according to the NAR. Florence is in an interesting situation because its 9.2% unemployment rate represents an improvement year-over-year (for June 2013), but it slipped from May. This indicates that the situation in Florence was improving, but it's improving in fits and starts, and may be on the verge of backsliding. This doesn't bode well for the housing market going forward.

1. Peoria, Illinois

According to NAR, Peoria has suffered the worst housing value losses in the country, dropping 9.2% between the second quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2013. Peoria's unemployment rate in June 2013 was 8.7%, which still beat the average in Illinois, even though it was higher than the national average. Year-over-year, Peoria's employment situation has suffered, but the June number represents an improvement over May. Perhaps the situation will start to look up soon.

The Investing Answer: While these markets might be depressing if you already have a home there, they could represent buying opportunities for the savvy real estate investor. Home values in these markets might be approaching a bottom, and that means that there could be plenty of deals.

P.S. -- If there was ever a time to invest in real estate, our research indicates that it is now. 

As we mentioned, we've put some of our best research into a special report called Renter Nation -- The Incredible Housing Story Nobody Is Talking About. These investments pay solid yields up to nearly 6% -- almost three-times more than you would get from a bond, CD, or even your own savings account -- and they're starting see some big capital gains as investors catch on to their potential. Click here to learn more.