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California's Central Valley
California's Central Valley
Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Sacramento Stockton

Five of the cities on the Bottom 10 list are from this region, making the long rural stretch of Highway 99 between Sacramento and Bakersfield look like a treacherous real estate ditch. Home prices shot up here by as much as 60 percent during the past two years as big homebuilders, squeezed out of the Bay Area and Los Angeles by lack of space, arrived in search of raw land at bargain prices.

Problem is, the Central Valley's base industry (agriculture) creates the lowest-paying jobs, and chronically high unemployment rates persist throughout the region. "A market where housing has increased by so much so fast when unemployment is that high is unsustainable," says Frank Owens, who sits on the board of Fresno's builders association. "This market is going south."