The skyrocketing prices of the bubble years forced buyers of middling means to search ever farther afield.
In Greater Boston, that meant some buyers looking for homes they could afford fled to Plymouth and Southeastern Massachusetts, while others headed north to Southern New Hampshire.
They traded long commutes for the chance to buy a raised ranch or a colonial for less than $300,000.
Still others took a bet on small industrial cities closer to the 128 beltway and downtown Boston where prices were far cheaper.
Sadly, many of these seemingly affordable refuges have become negative equity traps, with large percentages of homeowners out in the exurbs of the outer reaches of the South Shore and Southern New Hampshire stuck owing more on their homes that what they are actually worth, new stats put out by Zillow show.
The real estate market recovery, such as it is, hasn't reached these homeowners yet.
In Southern New Hampshire, towns where 20 to 30 percent or more of homeowners are still underwater are by far the norm, not the exception, including Derry (38 percent), Londonderry (25 percent), Plaistow (34 percent), Atkinson (26 percent) and Sandown (25 percent), to name a few.
That's compared to the suburbs on or near the 128 beltway, where the percentage of homeowners with negative equity is typically in the single digits, including Lexington (3.5 percent), Needham (3.8 percent) and Belmont (4.5 percent), according to Zillow.
It's the same story in the Plymouth area, with Plymouth at nearly 22 percent, Hanover at 22 percent and Kingston topping 20 percent.
But those numbers pale in comparison to the daunting situation now facing homeowners who took a bet on smaller industrial cities.
More than 47 percent of homeowners in Brockton are still underwater. In Lawrence, its 35 percent, while Lowell weighs in at nearly 30 percent.
And it could be a long way back for many of these towns, with prices still 20, 30 or even 40 percent below the peaks reached during the bubble years.
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