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Robert Trigaux

Florida dominates weakest housing markets

26

February

Homebuildingmrivenbark Wake up and good morning. Sometimes it's best not to make a list. Like this one: The 15 worst housing markets -- from a homebuilder point of view -- in the country. Builder, the homebuilding industry magazine and information source, joined with Hanley Wood Market Intelligence to analyze 75 major housing markets, from best to worst for homebuilders in 2009. (Photo of home  construction in Hernando County by  Maurice Rivenbark of the St. Petersburg Times.)

Of the 15 weakest of those 75 major markets -- let's pause for applause -- Tampa Bay is not one of them. Good news, but frankly a bit surprising given the new home devastation around here. Now Florida as a whole did not get off easily. Of the 15 weakest markets, eight are in Florida (especially along the east coast), four are in California, and the remaining three are scattered among Nevada, Michigan and Ohio.

Why do we care? Builder claims that because these markets are the weakest, they will probably be among the last to recover economically. The ranking were figured this way: population trends and job growth; the rate of home price declines, and the rate of building permits, "which may be the single best ongoing indicator of builder confidence in a market," Builder said.

Starting with the weakest, here are the 15 markets: Detroit; Stockton (Calif.); Port St. Lucie (Fla.); W. Palm Beach; Daytona Beach; Naples (so this is the weakest on Florida's gulf coast); Fort Lauderdale; Fresno (Calif.); Melbourne (Fla.); Reno (Nev.); Miami; Cleveland; Sacramento; Lakeland and San Francisco.

Builder has not yet published the complete ranking of 75 markets yet but I suspect Tampa Bay will rank low. Here's what the magazine said, for example, about the Lakeland market -- ranked 62nd of 75 U.S. markets -- again, from a homebuilder point of view:

"Retirees can spot a bargain when they see one. Back in 2003, when the median price of an existing home in Lakeland was a mere $97,000, they rushed into this metro area halfway between Orlando and Tampa. After a boom in the middle part of the decade, building permit activity has fallen 76 percent since 2005 and 24 percent in the last year. Existing home prices, $139,500 in the third quarter of last year, seem affordable, but remain well above 2003 levels. Forty percent of the jobs in Lakeland, which suffers from below-average per capita income, are in services, and they’ve been declining at a rapid rate. Employment in the metro area was running 2.7 percent below a year before in December, a loss of 5,700 jobs. Publix Supermarket is the largest local employer, followed by Wal-Mart."

So what are the healthiest markets (keeping in mind that's a relative term these days) in the country? Start with Houston, says Builder. Here's the top 15 list but here's what Builder says helped make them more resilient in the tough 2009 economy:

"The healthiest markets have many things in common. Most of them are great places to live, either close to the ocean, mountains, or major universities. Most of them didn’t have a huge run-up in prices during the boom and aren’t experiencing rampant deflation during the bust."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 12:24pm]

    

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