Six New Jersey counties placed in the top 10 most vulnerable housing markets in ATTOM Data Solutions' Special Housing Risk Report for the first quarter of 2022.

And among the top 50, five more counties made the list, accounting for more than half the Garden State being so highly ranked.

But in ATTOM's estimation, what does "vulnerable" mean?

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Executive vice president of market intelligence Rick Sharga said the higher a market rated in terms of the percentage of monthly income it takes someone to buy property, percentage of underwater loans — where more is still due than the property is worth — foreclosure activity, and unemployment rate, the higher the risk.

Passaic, Essex, and Atlantic counties came in first, second, and third respectively, with Sussex seventh, Cumberland eighth, and Union 10th.

Warren (15th), Bergen (29th), Gloucester (32nd), Ocean (35th), and Camden (36th) were the rest of New Jersey's entries in the top 50.

Sharga said while jockeying for position may continue in future reports, New Jersey counties in a general sense will remain near the top for some time.

"It's not likely, for example, that we're going to see home prices decline dramatically in some of the higher-priced markets in the state, and so it'll always be a risk factor for New Jersey residents who are homeowners in those areas," he said.

A sweet spot between New York and Philadelphia

According to Sharga, it is logical that some of the counties that house large urban centers like Camden and Newark, and have unemployment rates traditionally higher than the rest of the United States, would make appearances.

But he said that New Jerseyans tend to understand they live in a high-cost state, and so do people who want to come here from elsewhere.

"I don't think there's anything in the report that jumps off the page, and would make people hesitant about moving into the area or staying in the area," Sharga said. "Just the sheer concentration of how many relatively high-risk markets are in the geography, I think, is a little bit of a surprise."

Things won't totally fall apart

What Sharga does want to communicate is that just because an area is classified as "vulnerable" does not mean its housing situation is in great, imminent peril.

There may be a fluctuation of one or more of the four factors he cited that may augur some positivity.

"If there is a downturn, whether it's a recession or some other kind of economic event that happens, these markets are a little bit more vulnerable than markets where the other conditions aren't present," Sharga said.

Read a summary of the report here.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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