Sullivan Co. housing COVID vulnerability increases

Sullivan County’s housing market was a Tennessee outlier in ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q3 special report on markets that are more or less vulnerable to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. It was the only county in the state that saw its vulnerability rating increase from Q2.

Sullivan had a rating of 282 in the Q2 analysis. It increased to 280 in Q3.

The analysis of 487 county housing markets focused on the percentage of homes currently facing possible foreclosure, the portion with mortgage balances that exceed the estimated property value, and the percentage of local wages required to pay for major homeownership expenses. The report’s ranks are in numerical order where 1 is the market most vulnerable, and 487 is least vulnerable.

“The U.S. housing market continues to show remarkable resilience during a time of widespread economic trouble and high unemployment stemming from the virus pandemic. But amid continued price gains, pockets around the country face a greater risk of a fall, especially in and around the Northeast,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “There is much uncertainty ahead, especially if another virus wave hits. We will continue to closely monitor home prices and sale patterns to see if, how, and where the pandemic starts rattling local markets.”

Sullivan and Washington’s markets continue to be the most vulnerable of the state county markets included in the report. Washington Co. dropped 54 points in Q3 with a rating of 286. The least vulnerable in Tennessee is Davidson county, with a rating of 485.

It’s noteworthy that all of the state markets in the analysis were near – or below – the mid-point of markets that are rates as most vulnerable.

Sullivan and Washington led the state in the percentage of properties that were underwater in Q3. Sullivan’s share was 18%, up 1.2% from Q2, while the percentage in Washington Co. was 17.4% down from 1.9%.

Sullivan saw a big decrease in the percentage of properties with new foreclosure filings in Q3, but it still led the state with 0.03%. Washington Co. also saw a significant decline and was tied with Shelby Co. at 0.02% for the second-highest percentage in the state.

“While it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the historically high levels of foreclosure activity we saw during the Great Recession, it’s a near-certainty that the number of defaults will increase once the foreclosure moratoria have been lifted, and the CARES Act forbearance program expires,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac, an ATTOM Data Solutions company. “It’s also likely that foreclosures will be concentrated in markets where there’s a dual-trigger – for example, stubbornly high unemployment rates, and homeowners who are underwater on their loans.”

Washington and Sullivan counties had declines in the 5% range in the affordable comparison of the study. The Q3 percentage of income needed to buy a median-priced home in Sullivan was 16.4% down from 21.4% in the previous quarter. The decline was driven by a decrease in the median sales price of a residential resale. The income share to buy in Washington Co. was 22.7% down 5.5%.

The two-county markets with the lease affordability rating were Williamson and Wilson counties with 40.3%. Those counties with Shelby are the only counties in the study where the share of income to buy is above the 30% level – the standard affordability benchmark.

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