Judging by numbers alone, the situation in the new Sunrise Douglas development, built at the height of the housing boom on the far edge of Rancho Cordova, could only be described as grim.
More than three-quarters of homeowners here owe more than their homes are worth the highest underwater rate in a capital region drowning in nearly $21 billion in negative equity, according to realty tracking firm Zillow.
Residents have left Sunrise Douglas in droves. More than one-quarter of homes in the area have changed hands due to foreclosures or short sales since 2008, roughly twice the average for Sacramento County.
In this case, however, numbers don't tell the whole story.
Anatolia, the largest neighborhood in Sunrise Douglas with about 1,900 homes, is a vibrant and well-kept community that many residents, including some who are deeply underwater, say they have no intention of leaving.
With its trim lawns, joggers and central clubhouse filled with activity, it looks nothing like some other half-built developments around the region: places blighted by weed-choked vacant lots, abandoned construction trailers and utility cables sprouting from the dirt.
"I'm happy with the neighborhood. The kids are safe. The neighbors are nice," said Leah Magpily, a nurse who with her husband bought a 4,000-square-foot home in 2007 for more than $600,000 and watched its value drop by nearly half. "We're going to stick it out."
About 76 percent of homeowners in Sunrise Douglas owe more than their homes are worth, the largest percentage of any ZIP code within 100 miles of Sacramento, Zillow said.
A third of those are in deep trouble, owing at least 60 percent more than their homes are worth. These are the people who, for example, paid $525,000 for homes now worth $200,000.
In the face of such staggering losses, many have given up. About 12 percent of homeowners in Sunrise Douglas are at least 90 days delinquent on their loan payments. Only six ZIP codes in the region have a higher delinquency rate, according to Zillow.
The main reason Sunrise Douglas is so underwater is all the homes are brand new, sold at or near the height of the housing bubble. Buyers who had just moved in had little but paper equity, which has since been wiped out, along with their down payments.
Like Sunrise Douglas, the other two places in the region with the most underwater homeowners mostly didn't exist until the housing boom.
About 71 percent of homeowners in North Natomas, which rose from farmland during the last decade, are underwater, according to Zillow. And 74 percent of homeowners around Plumas Lake, a new Yuba County community, are upside-down on their mortgages.
Another reason for Sunrise Douglas' plummeting home values is broken promises. Homebuyers were told to expect a community of 30,000 homes with plentiful shopping, parks and public services. Today, they have a community of 3,000 homes and 8,000 people, with only a Walgreens drugstore nearby and a shuttered fire station.
A place to raise a family
Yet Sunrise Douglas has factors going for it that other communities might envy.
The median household income is roughly $93,000, much higher than the Sacramento County median of about $56,000, census figures show. The poverty rate in the community is less than 2 percent.
About 85 percent of residents live in homes they own.
Many are professionals, including state workers, engineers, teachers, nurses, police officers and managers at high-tech firms. About 46 percent of adults in Sunrise Douglas have a bachelor's degree, compared to 28 percent of adults countywide, census figures show.
It's a diverse community, with whites making up about 43 percent of the population, Asians 32 percent and Latinos 12 percent.
And it's a place where families go to raise children: The median age in the area is 31 compared to a county average of 35. About 28 percent of Sunrise Douglas residents are children under 15, compared to 21 percent of residents countywide.
In Anatolia developed jointly by Angelo K. Tsakopoulos' firm AKT and home building giant Lennar there's an elementary school, three parks, and paved trails along a seasonal wetlands preserve with vernal pools, waterfowl and rabbits.
The central clubhouse, with its three pools, a gym, fitness classes and a children's play area, is a community focal point and looks like an upscale resort. Homeowners' dues of $115 a month pay for clubhouse privileges.
"We love it," said Yolanda Antoni, who swam in the pool with her three children on a recent afternoon. The family goes swimming nearly every day, she said. "This is the time to relax."
Sandra Gonzales, a teacher, also brings her children to the pool regularly. She and her husband, a federal employee, bought their house new in 2006 for $492,000 and have been able to make payments with the help of a loan modification. They saw most of their neighbors leave via short sales and foreclosures and the houses reoccupied by new owners or renters.
Gonzales said the newcomers have mostly fit in and appreciate the neighborhood's qualities, including what she described as its stability and sense of security.
"I feel the people who come here are mostly good people," she said. "They're looking for the same thing we're looking for."
Craig Osborn, the elected Anatolia homeowners association president, said it's no fluke the community has remained an attractive place to live throughout years of high turnover.
As foreclosures and short sales increased, some properties began to deteriorate. The board and individual homeowners took the initiative in caring for neglected properties and putting pressure on irresponsible homeowners, including banks, to maintain the homes, he said.
"It was a conscious community effort," Osborn said. "We've been able to survive and even thrive in a challenging environment."
So what does the future hold for Sunrise Douglas?
Experts said building will eventually pick up again with homes priced more moderately. The area's proximity to jobs and the Highway 50 corridor still make it an attractive place to live, they said.
But with the price reset button hit, original residents who bought at top dollar may never get their money out.
"Prices just got ridiculously high" in Anatolia and Sunrise Douglas, said Stephen Smiley, a principal at Meyers LLC, a real estate consulting firm based in Irvine, who specializes in Northern California properties.
He said he understood the appeal of the neighborhood, but questioned the wisdom of homeowners trying to hold onto houses worth half of what they owe. Why stay put, making relatively large monthly payments, when you're unlikely to recover the lost value anytime soon, he asked? That means "you've got a long row to hoe."
Meanwhile, some construction continues in the area with homes selling at more modest prices, he said. As demand returns, perhaps a number of years from now, builders are likely to start selling more homes in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, he said.
"All along people wanted to live in Anatolia, but not at $600,000," he said. "It's going to reinvent itself."