It's that time of year when ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night have trick-or-treaters trembling in their boots. However, this Halloween, nothing is quite as frightening as our nation's housing market.
In the past couple of years, Americans have been inundated with bone-chilling images of eerie boarded up homes in abandoned ghost towns across the country. A nasty witch's brew of economic turmoil, soaring unemployment rates and more stringent lending standards caused Americans homeowners to collectively lose $3.3 trillion in property value last year. (Learn more about the current real estate problems in Who Is To Blame For The Subprime Crisis?)
Of course, some areas have witnessed much more terrifying housing markets than others. So, what U.S. cities win the prize for the creepiest, most foreclosure-ridden neighborhoods? If you're looking for a spooky spot to celebrate Halloween, look no further than these scary American communities, which boast the most horrifying foreclosure rates in the country. (Learn more in Saving Your Home From Foreclosure.)
- Las Vegas, Nevada
Typically known for gambling, fun and good old fashioned excess, Las Vegas has taken on a more sinister reputation as of late. With one in every 13 homes subject to foreclosure filing in the first six months of 2009, Las Vegas has the highest foreclosure rate in the U.S., based on a July RealtyTrac report. The nightmarish rate in Vegas, which has grown by 56% since the first half of 2008, is six times the national foreclosure average (one in 84). Yikes!
- Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Florida
This beautiful Southwest Florida community known for its pristine beaches and stunning Gulf of Mexico views, has transformed into somewhat of a spooky seaside ghost town. The Cape Coral-Ft. Myers area has the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation with one in 14 homes subject to foreclosure filing, according to RealtyTrac.
- Merced, California
Merced, California is the third scariest American neighborhood, with one in 15 homes facing terrifying times. While this ranking is certainly spine-tingling, Merced has actually seen an improvement since April, when it was ranked number two with one in 24 homes facing foreclosure.
- Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario, California
These typically sunny California communities have fallen in the ominous shadow of countless foreclosure signs. Ranked number four in foreclosures, the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area has a 5.73 foreclosure rate with one in 17 homes in trouble.
As a matter of fact, California dominates the frightening foreclosure list, with six cities in the top 10 foreclosure markets. Next in line comes Stockton, California at number five, followed by Modesto, Bakersfield and Vallejo-Fairfield at numbers six, seven and eight. But we'll leave California alone for now, and move onto some other scary states.
- Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale, Arizona
This formerly popular, sun-drenched retirement destination has given way to a ghostly district filled with fearsome foreclosure signs. Ranked at number 9 in foreclosures, the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area has a bloodcurdling 4.4 foreclosure rate with one in 22 houses subject to foreclosure filing.
- Detroit, Michigan
Detroit ranked highest in the nation in RealtyTrac's 2006 and 2007 foreclosure reports, but the city has had some relief in the past year. However, while Motor City has seen a decrease in its foreclosure rate, it continues to rank among the top 50 metro areas.
Not to mention that Detroit property values have fallen off a cliff. As a matter of fact, the average sales price of a Detroit house in December 2008 was $7,500 according to Realcomp, a listing service. You read that right: That's $7,500 with two zeros, not three.
The disturbing images that haunt the metro area also make Motown a notably creepy community. As you stroll through Detroit, it's not rare to find street after street of boarded up, collapsing homes overgrown with weeds alongside burned out, abandoned buildings with shattered windows. Some brave visitors say it's like a scene straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Now that's the stuff of Halloween nightmares.
So, this Halloween, just remember that there are scarier things than the ghouls and goblins prowling your neighborhood. If someone could dress up like the American real estate market, they would have the most frightening costume of all. (For more on foreclosures, check out Battling Foreclosure: The HOPE NOW Alliance Strategy and Short Sales And Foreclosures: When It's Time To Move On.)