Coronavirus housing vulnerability centers on Northeastern markets

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Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware house 32 of the top 50 U.S. counties most vulnerable to the pandemic's economic effects, according to Attom Data Solutions.

Attom's third-quarter coronavirus report ranked 487 counties based on the percentage of properties receiving foreclosure notice, the total underwater units in each and the percentage of local wages required to pay for the median-priced home.

A quartet of metro areas had four or more of the top 50 most affected counties. In addition to Orange County, N.Y. (No. 47), New York City had Bergen (19), Essex (8), Passaic (3) and Sussex (5) counties in New Jersey. Baltimore accounted for the Maryland counties of Carroll (22), Anne Arundel (24), Baltimore (34) and Howard (38).

Philadelphia had Bucks County, Pa. (31), while pulling the New Jersey counties of Gloucester (10), Camden (16) and Burlington (26). Lastly, the Maryland counties of Charles (1), Prince George's (29) and Frederick (46) as well as Spotsylvania County, Va. (27), tied to the nation's capital.

McHenry County, Ill. (2), Atlantic County, N.J. (4), Litchfield County, Conn. (6), Sussex County, Del. (7), and Middlesex County, Conn. (9), filled out the rest of the top 10.

Only four counties from Western states made the top 50 most vulnerable list. Those included the counties of Humboldt (20), Chico (23) and Redding (45) in California and Hilo (37) in Hawaii.

"Amid continued price gains, pockets around the country face greater risk of a fall, especially in and around the Northeast," Todd Teta, Attom's chief product officer, said in the report. "There is much uncertainty ahead, especially if another virus wave hits. We will continue to closely monitor home prices and sale patterns to see if, how and where the pandemic starts rattling local markets."

For the entire 487 county data set, Los Angeles County, Calif., Cook County, Ill., and Maricopa County, Ariz., had the most foreclosure filings. Meanwhile, Peoria County, Ill., St. Tammany County, La., and Tazewell County, Ill., had the highest foreclosure percentages.

Cook and Maricopa, followed by Cuyahoga County, Ohio, led in total underwater properties. The largest underwater shares came from Muscogee and Lowndes counties in Georgia, trailed closely by Peoria County.

The highest median home prices came at San Mateo and San Francisco counties in California and New York County, all eclipsing $1.4 million. Similarly, the California counties of Marin and Santa Cruz, followed by Kings County, N.Y., had the highest percentages of income needed to purchase a home.

"While it's unlikely that we’ll see a return to the historically high levels of foreclosure activity we saw during the Great Recession, it’s a near-certainty that the number of defaults will increase once the foreclosure moratoria have been lifted, and the CARES Act forbearance program expires," said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac. "It's also likely that foreclosures will be concentrated in markets where there's a dual-trigger — for example, stubbornly high unemployment rates, and homeowners who are underwater on their loans."

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Housing market CARES Act Coronavirus Foreclosures Home prices Distressed Attom Data Solutions