On the cover of their most recent issue, Fortune declares the "return of Real Estate" to be upon us. With the national housing market wrecked by low sales and marred by high foreclosure rates, the optimistic sentiment seems odd. Have they not seen the scores of empty homes?
Across America, these abandoned homes have formed into something more disturbing: ghost towns. In Las Vegas, a city that The Economist calls the "foreclosure capital of America," over eighty percent of mortgages are underwater. Detroit, another declining city, has watched the city's population drop 25 percent over the last decade. Modesto, California -- just 90 miles east of San Francisco -- has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Even one small town in New York have watched property values come crashing down.
In February, new home sales have plunged to record lows, down 28 percent from the year prior, according to new government data.
Economists and analysts, however, think things may actually get worse. According to Lender Processing Services, around 6.9 million homeowners were either delinquent or in foreclosure proceedings through February, and 1 in every 577 housing units received a foreclosure filing last month, finds data provider RealtyTrac.
Nationwide, empty houses are leading to empty neighborhoods, especially in Arizona, California, Nevada and Michigan. The slide show below shows a few examples of the results: once vital communities reduced to empty living rooms and overgrown weeds.
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This unfinished housing development is just one example of why The Economist calls Las Vegas "the foreclosure capital of America." Last year, a tenth of the city's homes were foreclosed or in the process of foreclosure. Getty photographers Spencer Platt and Ethan Miller documented the city's decline. More of images of post-boom Las Vegas can be seen at The Huffington Post.
After Nevada, Arizona has the highest rate of foreclosures in America. Foreclosure-riddled ghost towns in Arizona and elsewhere are often made up of a variety of vacant homes: foreclosures, auctions, bank owned homes and unfinished developments are a common sight in Phoenix's suburbs.
California has the third highest foreclosure rate in the country and abandoned homes stretch from Los Angeles to Northern California. This aborted development plot in the San Francisco bay area left 7,000 local families without homes in 2008, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. See more Shocking Aerial Images Of The Foreclosure Crisis at The Huffington Post.
The empty driveways in this satellite photo from GoogleEarth are testaments to the astoundingly high number of vacant homes in Bonita Springs and across Florida. Of the town's 23,455 total housing units, 8,522 houses were vacant last year. See more Shocking Aerial Images Of The Foreclosure Crisis at The Huffington Post.
This Cairo, Illinois photo from Associated Press shows one example of why the state was in the top 10 states for foreclosure activity in February, according to RealtyTrac. Cairo, a once active town at the cross-section of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers has seen a population decrease of 22 percent over the last decade.
Los Angeles remains in the top five foreclosure cities in the U.S., according to Real Estate tracker RealtyTrac. Outside this foreclosed house in Hawthorne, a suburb south of L.A. is a sign offering a two-year warranty as an incentive to buy.
Thanks, in part, to the housing crisis, Cleveland has experienced the third highest population decrease in America over the past decade. 81,588 people have left the city according to the Wall Street Journal. Boarded-up houses like these seem to be all that's left of the many families who've homes have been foreclosed.