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The 10 worst cities to buy in now

 

 

Intro

Housing markets in the U.S. did not all hit the skids simultaneously, nor did home prices plunge nationwide at the same rate. While some parts of the country were not hit at all by the housing crisis, many others were, and have just begun to recover while others are still floundering.

If you're thinking about buying a home, you'll want to seek out cities with affordable home prices, a reasonable cost of living, stable real estate markets, and recovering economies (the same characteristics portrayed in HSH.com's list of 5 cities poised for a housing pop).

Perhaps more importantly, you'll also want to avoid areas of the country that are just beginning to slide or those still mired in their own recessionary nightmares. Homes may be cheap in these metro areas, but there will be little home price appreciation in these locations over the next several years.

The following 10 cities are places with the greatest price depreciations over the last year and most-recent quarter. Residents of these towns not only lost money on their homes last year, but will likely continue to lose money in the months (and possibly years) ahead.

Here is HSH.com's list of the 10 worst cities to buy a home in right now.

Median home price: $121,100

Price change last year: -10.9%

Price change last quarter: -43.6%

Unemployment rate: 9.3%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 106.2

The most frightening thing if you live in Hagerstown is the fact that last quarter home prices dropped at a rate almost four times what they did the entire previous year.

Furthermore, you have a higher-than-average cost of living in addition to high unemployment.

Median home price:
$80,700

Price change last year: -17.9%

Price change last quarter: -8.0%

Unemployment rate: 8.3%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 98.9

Cumberland's home prices are extremely reasonable, and its unemployment rate and cost of living are lower than average. However, unless you have a good job and a lot of time, avoid investing in real estate here.

Median home price: $186,200

Price change last year: -18.4%

Price change last quarter: -10.5%

Unemployment rate: 8.4%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 101.5

Allentown is classic rust belt, but may be stabilizing. Yes, its prices dropped nearly 20% last year, but its unemployment rate is better than the national average, which can offer its residents some hope. Just don't be too eager to become a homeowner there.

Median home price: $75,400

Price change last year: -18.8%

Price change last quarter: -6.0%

Unemployment rate: 11.9%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 86.1

Ocala has an aura of class that originates in its famous horse farms and premier horse shows. Yet real estate in Ocala is dirt cheap and its cost of living is low.

If you can find a job (not easy with unemployment at nearly 12%) the town may suit you even with its disordered housing market.

Median home price: $153,600

Price change last year: -19.7%

Price change last quarter: -18.0%

Unemployment rate: 11.4%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 91.1

Miami had its boom and is still in mid-bust with high unemployment and falling home prices. Yet people still want to move there if they can, and beaches never go out of style.

Median home price: $87,000

Price change last year: -19.7%

Price change last quarter: -24.1%

Unemployment rate: 7.7%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 110.3

Cleveland's homes are inexpensive and its unemployment rate is not bad. The cost of living, however, is higher than average, even if housing is cheap.

Cleveland's Afford-a-Home program helps buyers purchase and repair homes by offering low-interest loans and interest-free second mortgages of $5,000 or $10,000.

Median home price: $78,000

Price change last year: -20.3%

Price change last quarter: -18.7%

Unemployment rate: 9.3%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 98.8

Dayton is emerging as a technology hub, which will hopefully take the edge off of its 9.3% unemployment rate. Its home prices dropped precipitously last quarter, though, so waiting to buy a home is probably a smart move.

Median home price: $153,500

Price change last year: -20.6%

Price change last quarter: -2.7%

Unemployment rate: 9.4%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 105.7

Salem saw a horrifying drop in home prices last year. However, the bleeding may be over soon--the most recent quarterly change was only -2.7%. Unemployment and the cost of living remain high enough to be a concern for those considering home ownership in Salem.

Median home price: $74,900

Price change last year: -21.4%

Price change last quarter: -28.9%

Unemployment rate: 8.2%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 100.3

Akron's homes are supremely affordable, costing only about two times the median income of its residents. However, the size of the drop in last quarter's home prices should make you hesitate before buying. The upside is that they can't go much lower.

Median home price: $99,400

Price change last year: -22.8%

Price change last quarter: -14.6%

Unemployment rate: 8.8%

2011 Cost of Living Index: 89.2

Biloxi's home prices took the biggest annual beating of any city on this list. With its economy centered in gaming and tourism, don't expect home prices to improve until the rest of the country starts visiting and gambling again.

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About the author:
Gina Pogol has been writing about business, mortgage and finance topics since 1994. In addition to a decade in mortgage lending, she has worked as a bankruptcy paralegal, a business credit systems consultant for Experian and an accountant for Deloitte.

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