The Cities Where People Finally Want to Buy Homes

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Many Americans are planning to buy homes in the areas that have been hardest-hit by the real estate crisis, according to housing data released today. Real estate research agency Trulia reported that there are a number of major metropolitan areas in the U.S. where people from around the country — many of them retiring baby boomers — are looking for bargains. 24/7 Wall St. has identified the 10 with the highest rate of “inbound” searches.

Eight out of the 10 areas on our list had a more severe decline in home prices than the U.S. average from pre-recession levels. In six of them, median prices are less than half what they were five years ago. In the Cape Coral-Fort Myers region of Florida, home prices are down nearly 60%.

Dramatic declines in home prices, coupled with rising unemployment, led to a financial crisis for millions of Americans as their homes became worth less than their mortgages. Seven of the 20 regions in the country with the highest rate of underwater mortgages appear on our list.

A consequence has been high foreclosure and vacancy rates. Some areas are still seeing extremely high foreclosure rates, including the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area, which had a 57% increase in foreclosures from the second quarter of this year to the third.

The large volume of foreclosures has led to a massive inventory of homes that are now being offered for a fraction of their original prices. “Inventory puts downward pressure on prices,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia. According to Kolko, with a huge quantity of foreclosed homes worth very little, the 10 areas on our list will be buyers’ markets for the foreseeable future.

In addition to Trulia’s list of the regions with the highest metro movers score — the ratio of inbound searches to outbound searches — we included former, current and projected home price information from Fiserv, as well as unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also included information on underwater mortgages and the percentage of regional sales that have been on formerly foreclosed upon homes from CoreLogic.

These are the 10 metropolitan areas where people want to buy homes: