Southern California's neighborhoods are beautiful, but MarketWatch personal finance reporter Daniel Goldstein points out that looks can be deceiving. The Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim area is the most polluted housing market in the U.S., with 99% of the market having high or very high levels of exposure to unhealthy air, polluted land or water. The poor environmental quality comes from the presence of "Superfund" sites—places deemed hazardous enough to warrant a cleanup operation led by the EPA—brownfields, pollutants, and former drug labs.
Chicago, Naperville and Elgin, Ill., came in as the second real estate market with the most number of toxins, with 93% of the market having high exposure. Detroit was third, and was followed by Riverside–San Bernardino in Southern California; Akron, Ohio; Cleveland; Stockton, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; Reading, Pa.; Toledo, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Los Angeles; Kansas City, Mo.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Bakersfield, Calif.
About 25 million U.S. homes are in ZIP Codes at high risk or very high risk for man-made environmental hazards, RealtyTrac said — representing 38% of the 64 million homes in the 7,700 ZIP Codes analyzed. The combined estimated market value of the 25 million homes in high risk or very high risk areas was $6.9 trillion as of November 2015.
“Buying a home in an area with low risk of manmade environmental hazards may not just be a good idea for health and safety reasons, it may also be good for financial reasons,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Across the country, home prices in high-risk ZIP Codes were lower on average, and appreciation over the last 10 years slower when compared to home prices and 10-year appreciation in low risk ZIP Codes,” he said.