“It was going for the American Dream,” Payne, now 61, said recently as he sat in his living room.
It is an improvement from 2012, when average prices hit bottom and properties with severe negative equity topped out at 29 per cent, or 12.8 million homes.
Developments in outlying communities typically suffer in downturns.
But a comeback has been harder this time around, analysts say, because the home-price run-ups were so extreme, and the economies of many of these Midwestern and Eastern metro areas have lagged those of more vibrant areas of the country.
He said land restrictions and sales to international buyers have helped buoy demand in those areas.
These and other casualties of the real estate meltdown are easy to overlook as homes in much of the country are again fetching record prices.
The Paynes’ gated community of Penn Estates, in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, is among scores that sprang up in Monroe County during the housing boom.
Nearly 40 per cent of the 9,800 homes with mortgages in this county about 80 miles northwest of Chicago are underwater, according to the ATTOM data.
Some houses that went for US$225,000 during the boom are now worth about US$85,000, property records show.
But those fees may be a big deterrent for many would-be buyers at Candlewick Lake, said association board member Randy Budreau.