Are they really the worst places to own a home? ~Ezra Boyd, Ph.D.

Posted on November 10, 2014 By

17th Street Canal Flood wall breach. New Orleans, 8-29-05, one of the worst places to own real estate in the country at that moment.

17th Street Canal Flood wall breach.
New Orleans, 8-29-05, one of the worst places to own a home in the country at that moment.

The Weather Channel made waves recently when it published the results of a in-house study that they called  “The Worst Places to Own a Home.”  Following a “detailed analysis… of both historical and risk-related weather, climate and natural disaster data,” the study authors derived what they call “a list of the 50 worst counties in the U.S. to own a home, based entirely on natural factors.”  However, if one examines of data beyond weather, climate, and natural disasters, it becomes apparent that other factors determine where are the worst places to live and own a home.  For example, New Orleans is number 1 on the Weather Channel’s list.  However, for many years it has been one of the fastest growing metropolises in America, and during a period of homes losing values across America, property values there have shown a respectable increase.

The table below shows the top 10 worst places to own a home according to the analysis from the Weather Channel.  For each of these counties, the table also lists the percent change in population and the percent change in median property values from 2010 to 2013 (the most recent period for which the data was readily available; property value data is only available for some counties).  For reference, national population growth during this period averaged 2.4% and property values changed at an average rate of -2.2% .

“Worst Places to Own Home” Change in Population (%), 2010 –  2013 Change in Property (%) Values, 2010 – 2013
Orleans Parish, Louisiana 10.10 3.92
Hancock County, Mississippi 3.70
Harrison County, Mississippi 5.00 -6.86
Jackson County, Mississippi 0.60 -2.09
Cameron Parish, Louisiana -1.40
Ocean County, New Jersey 1.20 -7.70
St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana 21.10
Galveston County, Texas 5.30 3.14
Ottawa County, Oklahoma 1.20
Delaware County, New York -2.60


While two of these counties have experienced negative population change, the other eight have gained population during the period.  Five of these have even surpassed the national average, four of them by a factor of two or greater.  In terms of changes in property values, two of the counties (for which data is available) bucked the national trend and showed increasing values.  While three counties showed decreases, even Jackson County (#4 on the list) performed better than the national average. Based on this data, there is no apparent correlation with the Weather Channel results and the actions of homeowners where’s the best and worst places to live and invest in real estate.

What about converse?  The table below shows the ten counties where property values experienced the greatest decrease during the time period.  These places are not well known for floods, storms, tornadoes, or hurricanes, and none them appear on the Weather Channel list.  Number one on the list is Clayton County, Georgia where the unemployment rate has consistently been above the national average, the public school system lost national certification in 2008, and life expectancy is two years below the national average.

“Not the Worst Places to Own a Home” Change in Population (%), 2010 – 2013 Change in Property (%) Values, 2010 – 2013
Clayton County, Georgia 1.80% -28.52%
Navajo County, Arizona -0.10% -26.33%
Highlands County, Florida -1.20% -26.01%
Douglas County, Georgia 3.10% -23.51%
Walker County, Texas 1.40% -23.26%
Newton County, Georgia 2.50% -23.20%
Nassau County, Florida 3.30% -21.55%
Rockdale County, Georgia 2.00% -21.00%
Maui County, Hawaii 3.50% -20.98%
Carroll County, Georgia 1.60% -20.84%


It’s natural to expect the folks at the Weather Channel would look at weather related data.  But when one adopts a broader perspective and looks at other data on where people choose to live and where people get a good return on their real estate investment, it is not so obvious that their “worst places to own a home” are all that bad to homeowners.  In fact, one might inclined to conclude that counties and housing markets can survive floods, earthquakes, windstorms, and wildfires.  Now, the cycle of poor job opportunities, lack of decent education services, and an ineffective health care system, maybe that’s what really makes a place a bad place to own a home?

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