IRVINE, Calif., Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A five-point glance at the U.S. housing market shows more communities worse off now than four years ago, online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac said Monday.
While ignoring lag time inherent in a deteriorating housing market, RealtyTrac said in a statement that 65 percent of local markets -- 580 out of 919 communities monitored -- were worse off using a five-point grading system than they were four years ago.
The firm found 315 of 919 (35 percent) were better off in three out of five categories.
The firm checked average home prices, unemployment, foreclosure inventory, the number of foreclosures initiated by banks (called foreclosure starts) and the percentage of home sales that involved distressed properties, which include bank-seized properties and those in some stage of foreclosure.
In a report released Monday, "Election 2012 Housing Health Check," RealtyTrac said unemployment rates are higher in 90 percent of all counties involved in the study and that "the foreclosure picture is mixed, with slightly more than half of all counties documenting lower foreclosure inventory and fewer foreclosure starts compared to four years ago."
The percentage of sales of homes that include distressed properties was split with half the communities experiencing an increase and half a decrease in distressed home sales.
"But the distressed sale share is still 10 percent or more of all sales in the majority of countries nationwide ... and account for one in every four sales in 20 percent of all counties," the firm said.
"The U.S. housing market has shown strong signs of life in recent months, but many local markets continue to struggle with high levels of negative equity as the result of home prices that are well off their peaks. In addition, persistently high unemployment rates are hobbling a robust real estate recovery in most areas," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
"The worst of the foreclosure problem is in the rear view mirror for a narrow majority of counties."
In other counties, foreclosure activities are on the rise, as communities "continue to clear the wreckage left behind by a bursting housing bubble," he said.