Las Vegas ranked last in report on large cities’ housing market health

An aerial view of a neighborhood in the southwest part of the Las Vegas Valley taken from a helicopter May 21, 2012.

Las Vegas’ housing industry is stronger today than it was after the economy collapsed, but it’s still bogged down by an array of problems — and according to a new report, it’s the unhealthiest market in America.

Personal-finance website WalletHub analyzed the health of the housing markets in 25 of the largest metro areas in the country. It ranked Boston No. 1 overall and Las Vegas last.

The Las Vegas area has the highest rate of underwater homeowners, or people whose mortgage debt outweighs their home value (39 percent), and the second-longest amount of time until the average homeowner’s mortgage is paid off (24 years).

The valley also has the fifth-highest share of “easy” mortgages, or loans obtained without proof of income, assets or debt (16.8 percent); the third-highest share of first-time homebuyers who received help from state or local government programs on their loans (6.4 percent); and the lowest equity level, or ownership stake, that residents have in their homes (12 percent).

WalletHub said it created the rankings with data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Las Vegas was ground zero for the housing bubble and burst last decade, with bloated prices and nonstop homebuilding during the boom years and plunging property values, widespread foreclosures and a near-halt to construction during the bust. The market bounced back largely because bargain-hunting investors bought cheap homes, often in bulk, to turn into rentals.

This year, sales and prices of previously owned homes are up from 2014, and the number of ignored listings, which climbed steadily the past few years as investors backed out, has leveled off.

But a number of lingering problems remain, including high rates of foreclosures and upside-down borrowers.

Nevada, with the bulk of its population in Clark County, had the fourth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation for the first half of 2015, according to RealtyTrac. One in every 126 homes statewide received a foreclosure-related filing in that time, up almost 10 percent from the same period last year.

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Real Estate