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A recession may hit some US metros worse than others

Reuters logo Reuters 9/6/2019
a house that has a sign on the side of a building: FILE PHOTO: Newly constructed single family homes are shown for sale in Encinitas, California© Reuters/Mike Blake FILE PHOTO: Newly constructed single family homes are shown for sale in Encinitas, California

If the U.S. economy slips into a recession, homeowners in Riverside, California, will fare much worse than those in Rochester, New York, Seattle-based real estate brokerage Redfin predicts.

Redfin economists crunched a range of risk factors across 50 U.S. metro areas to estimate which markets were most vulnerable in a severe economic downturn. One key factor was how global trade affects the local economy, given the ongoing U.S. China trade war.

"If the U.S. enters a recession in the next two years, it will likely be caused by the global trade war," Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather said. "U.S. industries that rely on exports, like the automotive industry and the agricultural industry, would be the most vulnerable and susceptible to layoffs."

High loan-to-value ratios, volatile pricing and the share of households headed by someone 65 or older were also weighted in Redfin's ranking (click here for a chart).

Riverside has a lack of employment diversity and a high price-to-income ratio, Redfin found. On the other hand, Rochester's $145,000 median home price is less than three times the median income, one of the lowest in the country.

Redfin's analysis contained some surprising findings. San Francisco, where median home prices are 15 times the median income, ranks 35th most-vulnerable on the list of 50, since a high percentage of buyers paid for their homes with cash rather than with borrowed money that could be difficult to repay if they lost their jobs or faced other financial disruption.

The risk rankings are not meant to suggest that any particular housing market will necessarily decline, Redfin said, but the weakest could see slower growth.

The housing market collapse that occurred in the Great Recession was exceptional. In previous U.S. recessions home price declines were far more limited, and during the dot-com recession at the turn of the 21st century, U.S. home values overall increased.

Related video: The Fed isn't forecasting a recession (provided by The Wall Street Journal)

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Click here for Redfin's analysis

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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