Special Report

The Most At-Risk Housing Markets

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One of the few sectors that thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic was real estate. Existing home sales in 2020 hit their highest level in nearly a decade and a half — and surging demand pushed real estate prices higher. The median home sale reached a multi-decade high of $278,000 in the first quarter of 2021, up 17.7% from a year earlier, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. 

Despite a strong real estate market, there are still many counties where the housing market is at increased risk from the impact of the pandemic, directly or indirectly. 

These areas have higher than average foreclosure rates and higher than average shares of homes with underwater mortgages — meaning the value of outstanding loans exceeds the total value of the property. Some of these markets are also far less affordable than average with high homeownership costs relative to local incomes.

Based on an index of these three measures — foreclosure rates, share of underwater mortgages, and affordability — at the county level, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most at-risk housing markets. All data in this story was compiled in the first-quarter 2021 Special Coronavirus Report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate and property data company. 

Many of the counties on this list are located in eastern United States, spanning Florida up through the mid-Atlantic and New England. The pandemic has taken a greater than average economic and public health toll in some of these counties. This is the county in each state with the most deaths from COVID-19

“The pandemic still looms large and may pose a threat to the progress made so far, and by extension could affect home sales and prices,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM in a press release. Indeed, the housing market is thriving, but many American homeowners remain vulnerable. 

Click here to see the most at-risk housing markets

To determine the most susceptible housing markets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q1 2021 Special Coronavirus Report on the susceptibility of county-level housing markets to risks arising from the coronavirus pandemic. Counties were ranked based on an index that consists of the percentage of residential properties with a foreclosure filing during the first quarter of 2021, the percentage of average local wages needed to afford the major expenses of owning a median-priced home in the first quarter of 2021, and the percentage of properties with outstanding mortgage balances that exceeded their estimated market values in the fourth quarter of 2020, that is underwater mortgages. All index components came from ATTOM Data Solutions and were weighted equally. Supplemental data on unemployment and labor force came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are not seasonally adjusted.

50. Harnett County, North Carolina
> Location: Dunn, NC metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $212,500 (+16.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 28.1%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 2,178 (12.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 21

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49. Saint Lucie County, Florida
> Location: Port St. Lucie, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $255,000 (+18.6% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 32.2%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,296 (9.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 67

Source: felixmizioznikov / iStock via Getty Images

48. Ascension County, Louisiana
> Location: Baton Rouge, LA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $220,000 (+0.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 19.0%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 4,115 (19.1% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 28

47. Chesapeake City County, Virginia
> Location: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $285,000 (+16.3% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 31.0%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 10,626 (19.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 20

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46. Kendall County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $247,945 (+30.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 39.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 4,117 (13.7% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 09

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

45. Du Page County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $292,500 (+7.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 27.2%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 43,372 (17.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 111

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44. Manatee County, Florida
> Location: North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $345,000 (+27.8% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 39.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 9,021 (10.1% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 61

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

43. Middlesex County, New Jersey
> Location: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $360,000 (+16.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 33.3%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 17,466 (11.1% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 107

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/masstravel/

42. Berkshire County, Massachusetts
> Location: Pittsfield, MA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $215,000 (+2.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 24.2%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 5,541 (15.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 32

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41. Tazewell County, Illinois
> Location: Peoria, IL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $116,500 (+-2.9% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 16.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 9,758 (27.5% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 38

Source: Ctjf83 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

40. Scott County, Iowa
> Location: Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $175,000 (+12.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 21.0%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,252 (17.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 38

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39. Middlesex County, Connecticut
> Location: Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $281,847 (+17.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 29.3%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 8,184 (17.4% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 21

Source: jgreesonarts / iStock via Getty Images

38. Shasta County, California
> Location: Redding, CA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $303,000 (+10.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 31.5%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,660 (10.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 39

Source: JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD / Wikimedia Commons

37. Kent County, Delaware
> Location: Dover, DE metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $200,250 (+4.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 19.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,337 (17.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 56

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36. Saint Tammany County, Louisiana
> Location: New Orleans-Metairie, LA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $222,750 (+4.3% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 23.2%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 8,272 (19.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 42

Source: Dennisyerger84 / Wikimedia Commons

35. Will County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $232,000 (+11.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 30.3%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 26,734 (15.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 73

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34. Charlotte County, Florida
> Location: Punta Gorda, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $239,900 (+9.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 30.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 5,081 (10.5% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 58

33. Escambia County, Florida
> Location: Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $182,000 (+10.3% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 19.1%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 20,922 (31.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 69

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32. Osceola County, Florida
> Location: Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $255,000 (+8.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 33.5%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,514 (10.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 78

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31. Essex County, New Jersey
> Location: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $430,000 (+26.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 37.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 11,670 (10.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 116

Source: benkrut / iStock via Getty Images

30. Walworth County, Wisconsin
> Location: Whitewater-Elkhorn, WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $229,450 (+0.7% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 30.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,183 (14.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 19

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29. Flagler County, Florida
> Location: Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $268,000 (+19.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 37.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,279 (10.4% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 21

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

28. Lake County, Florida
> Location: Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $250,000 (+9.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 32.0%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 8,548 (10.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 77

27. Humboldt County, California
> Location: Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna, CA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $345,000 (+15.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 37.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 2,296 (10.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 28

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26. Onslow County, North Carolina
> Location: Jacksonville, NC metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $175,000 (+5.9% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 22.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,980 (16.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 56

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

25. Kane County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $225,000 (+3.2% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 28.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 21,450 (17.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 70

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24. Tolland County, Connecticut
> Location: Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $255,000 (+21.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 30.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,889 (18.4% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 18

23. Beaufort County, South Carolina
> Location: Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $372,500 (+22.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 43.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,107 (13.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 27

22. Craven County, North Carolina
> Location: New Bern, NC metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $195,000 (+16.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 20.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 4,007 (23.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 31

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21. Caddo County, Louisiana
> Location: Shreveport-Bossier City, LA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $166,000 (+27.7% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 19.2%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 9,011 (27.7% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 112

20. Cumberland County, New Jersey
> Location: Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $167,900 (+34.3% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 24.5%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,725 (24.2% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 25

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19. Highlands County, Florida
> Location: Sebring, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $175,000 (+22.8% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 24.1%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,181 (16.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 198

18. Ocean County, New Jersey
> Location: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $324,900 (+29.7% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 39.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 18,659 (10.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 130

Source: pabradyphoto / iStock via Getty Images

17. De Kalb County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $223,875 (+42.6% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 32.4%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 3,183 (15.1% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 16

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16. Sussex County, Delaware
> Location: Salisbury, MD-DE metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $312,950 (+16.3% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 31.4%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 9,496 (13.8% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 66

Source: davidwilson1949 / Flickr

15. Tangipahoa County, Louisiana
> Location: Hammond, LA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $174,250 (+9.6% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 21.5%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 5,039 (25.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 37

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14. Butte County, California
> Location: Chico, CA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $264,000 (+1.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 27.8%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 8,240 (19.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 44

Source: bluecorvette / Flickr

13. Charles County, Maryland
> Location: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $330,000 (+14.8% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 35.1%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,325 (13.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 23

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

12. Windham County, Connecticut
> Location: Worcester, MA-CT metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $235,000 (+18.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 29.1%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 4,015 (14.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 29

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11. Monroe County, Pennsylvania
> Location: East Stroudsburg, PA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $190,000 (+31.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 27.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,656 (18.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 41

Source: brandtbolding / Getty Images

10. Litchfield County, Connecticut
> Location: Torrington, CT metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $257,500 (+28.8% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 30.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 9,643 (18.2% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 37

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9. Livingston County, Louisiana
> Location: Baton Rouge, LA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $197,000 (+15.1% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 24.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 5,810 (25.0% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 29

Source: Ebyabe / Wikimedia Commons

8. Indian River County, Florida
> Location: Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $235,000 (+4.4% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 26.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 6,560 (17.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 77

7. Kankakee County, Illinois
> Location: Kankakee, IL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $147,300 (+13.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 21.5%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,004 (38.4% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 147

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6. Lake County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $290,000 (+25.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 25.3%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 44,032 (24.7% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 169

Source: viktor2013 / iStock via Getty Images

5. Clay County, Florida
> Location: Jacksonville, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $250,000 (+18.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 31.0%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,997 (16.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 57

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4. Bay County, Florida
> Location: Panama City, FL metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $262,213 (+14.0% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 28.9%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 10,407 (22.9% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 55

Source: stevegeer / iStock via Getty Images

3. Mchenry County, Illinois
> Location: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $235,506 (+9.8% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 33.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 16,493 (18.6% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 70

Source: ChrisBoswell / iStock via Getty Images

2. Atlantic County, New Jersey
> Location: Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $244,500 (+40.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 31.7%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 17,354 (24.4% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 89

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1. Sussex County, New Jersey
> Location: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area
> Median home sale price: $293,545 (+30.5% 1-yr. increase)
> Typical homeownership costs as share of median income: 40.6%
> Homes with underwater mortgages: 7,646 (18.3% of homes w/ loans)
> Homes with foreclosure filings: 45

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