When foreclosure specialist John Thompson looks at a map of Northern Virginia, he sees a flaming archipelago that stretches from Dumfries to Sterling. Parts of Dale City, Woodbridge and Herndon are engulfed; Manassas and Manassas Park are "a volcano."
Thompson calls this the "ring of fire," Northern Virginia's foreclosure belt. And although hardly a scientific model, it illustrates the geographic pattern of the region's housing distress.
But drive with Thompson through the hardest-hit areas of Prince William County -- the epicenter of the region's foreclosure trouble -- and the loss of value has been precipitous.
"That one's listed at $125,000," Thompson said one recent afternoon, sizing up a dowdy green rambler in Manassas Park that had been foreclosed on. It wasn't the fanciest house on the block, but it wasn't a shack. Two years ago, homes in the neighborhood were selling for $300,000 to $400,000, Thompson said.
The rising number of foreclosures are contributing significantly to declining prices in the outer suburbs.