Battleground States and Their Housing Situation

Depressed housing values, foreclosures, underwater mortgages. These terms barely touched the candidates’ lips in this presidential campaign. Even so, many voters will head to the polls on Election Day with the financial pain from the housing crisis still fresh on their minds.

For some, rising home values in 2012 may be reassurance enough that a housing recovery is in motion. For others, those modest gains may be too little, too late.

Nowhere does this matter more for President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney than the nation’s so-called battleground states. Here’s a snapshot of the state of swing-state housing.

Colorado

Colorado home values are down a relatively modest 6.4 percent from the housing market’s peak. Over the past year, the median home value in this hotly contested state has risen more than 5 percent to $209,900, according to Zillow’s latest figures. While the number of homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage is more than 1 in 4 (27.3 percent), that’s better than 1 in 3 — the average among these nine battleground states. Obama won Colorado in 2008 despite its history of voting Republican for president.

Florida

The country’s most infamous swing state is among the hardest hit when it comes to housing. Despite a bump in home prices this year, Zillow values the median Florida home at $127,600 — down more than half from its 2006 peak of $258,400. Of Sunshine State homeowners with a mortgage, 44.5 percent owe more than their house is worth. Nothing sunny about that. Obama eked out a Florida victory last time with 50.9 percent of the vote. A damaged housing market might just damage his chances this time.

New Hampshire

Polls are forecasting a neck-and-neck race in New Hampshire, which Obama won in 2008 and where Romney, who has a vacation home there, is often labeled a favorite son. New Hampshire’s median home value is down almost 25 percent from 2006 to $183,900. Almost 1 in 3 mortgage holders (30.2 percent) are underwater, about average among swing states.

Nevada

Romney has repeatedly stopped in Nevada to argue that Obama’s remedies for the economy have failed. With the nation’s highest unemployment rate (11.8 percent) and its worst housing market, it’s no wonder way. Nevada home values have started to rise, particularly around hard-hit Las Vegas, but values remain down 58.8 percent from six years ago. The median home, once worth $313,700, is now valued at $129,300. Of the 65 percent of underwater homeowners, one-third owe more than double the value of their home. Obama won the state comfortably in 2008, but polls are showing a tighter race this year.

North Carolina

North Carolina was a nail-biter in the last election. Of 4.2 million votes cast, Obama came out on top by just 13,692. The selection of Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention illustrates just how vital Obama considers this state. Housing values in North Carolina, down 11 percent from the peak, have remained fairly flat over the past year, falling only 0.3 percent. Just over 1 in 4 homeowners are underwater on their mortgage. Zillow pegs the median home value at $132,400.

Ohio

The winner in Ohio has won the White House in the past 12 elections. The state’s housing market has yet to see an upswing, but Ohio home values have fallen by less here than across much of the country. At $102,100, the median home value is down 17.9 percent since the crash. A little under 1 in 3 homeowners are underwater on their mortgage (31.6 percent), with almost half of those owing 100-120 percent of the value of their home. Obama carried Ohio last time by 4 percentage points.

Virginia

The state’s relatively high median home value, $210,800, has remained flat for the past year, down 20.8 percent from market peak. One in four Virginia homeowners with a mortgage (26.7 percent) owe more than the value of their house. A tight race is predicted in Virginia, where a solid tradition of voting Republican was broken in 2008 when Obama won the state.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s median home value of $139,100 is down 12.2 percent since the housing crisis began. One in four Wisconsinites with a home loan (26.6 percent) are underwater on their mortgage. Hometown popularity for Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, may help eat into the support that propelled Obama to an easy victory here in 2008.

Iowa

While no state-level home value information is available for Iowa, its largest metro area, Des Moines, has been performing well lately, with the median home value up 3.2 percent in the past quarter alone. Underwater mortgages are much less widespread, too, with 1 in 5 owing more on their loan than their home value. So housing seems less likely to hurt Obama here, a state he won with 54 percent of the vote four years ago.

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