Let’s hope the “new normal” in housing doesn’t look like Merced County, CA

A USA Today article about the “new normal” in US housing uses Merced County, California as its main example. The situation there is not good:

The median home price, $116,000, is down 68% from its peak in 2006. Three of five homeowners with a mortgage here owe more on their loans than their houses are worth, compared with about one in five nationally.

While the situation is particularly dire in Merced County, it is also not great in a number of other places:

Nationwide, home prices are down 30% from their 2006 peak. Moody’s Analytics economist Celia Chen says national home prices will regain that ground by 2021.

Some areas will take far longer. In 22 U.S. metropolitan regions, most in California and Florida, home prices won’t return to their 2006 peaks before 2030, Chen estimates. That includes such cities as Miami, Detroit, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Riverside, Calif.

And a USA Today chart shows the counties with the most mortgages underwater: Clark County, Nevada (where Las Vegas is located) is at the top with 71.1% of mortgages underwater. Overall, there are 17 counties over 50% and the top 30 on the chart are all over 46%.

This is a long-term issue for these places, particularly if housing values for the whole country aren’t expected to reach the 2006 peak until at least 2021.

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