Barely a block in Merced is without a For Sale or For Rent sign, or an empty home or two with the tell-tale signs of foreclosure. The visual cues reflect a tsunami of statistics that show a county where many homeowners are suffering:
From September 2006 to December 2009, 9,561 homes in Merced County -- or one in every seven -- were returned to banks; more than $3.6 billion worth of mortgage payments went unpaid.
In 2009, one in 10 Merced County homes received a foreclosure filing, which includes default notices, scheduled foreclosure auctions and bank repossessions; 8,389 properties got such filings, according to RealtyTrac. That grim statistic is up slightly from the 8,291 foreclosure filings in 2008. Merced has logged the highest countywide foreclosure filing rate in California, and the sixth-highest rate in the country.
In December 2009, the median home price in Merced County was $115,000, according to DataQuick, a San Diego firm that tracks housing data. In June 2006, Merced County's average home sales price was $362,398.
In December 2009, Merced County's unemployment rate was 19.8 percent.
In November 2009, 19 percent of Merced County homeowners were 90 days delinquent in payments, according to First American CoreLogic, signaling a continuing flow of foreclosures for this year.
-- Danielle E. Gaines