The housing situation has barely been a topic of debate amongst the country’s presidential candidates. 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.
Nowhere does this matter more for President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney than the nation’s so-called battleground states.
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. 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.
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, values were down more than half from its 2006 peak . 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.
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. Median home value is down almost 25 percent from 2006. Almost 1 in 3 mortgage holders (30.2 percent) are underwater, about average among swing states.
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 why. Obama won the state comfortably in 2008, but polls are showing a tighter race this year.
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. Values, 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.
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 the state’s 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.
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.
The 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.
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.