Home equity picture improves, a little, by Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal


The number of homes worth less than their outstanding mortgages fell slightly in the first three months, according to figures released Tuesday by CoreLogic Inc. (NYSE: CLGX), a Santa Ana, Calif.-based real estate data firm.

According to CoreLogic, 27.2 percent — or 13.5 million homes — had negative or near-negative equity in the first quarter. That compares to 27.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In Oregon, 17.2 percent of homes are worth less than their mortgages and another 5.8 percent had near-negative equity. Collectively, Oregonians owe $121.9 billion on 696,142 mortgages on properties worth a total of $175 billion.

“The current economic indicators point to slow yet positive economic growth, which will slowly reduce the risk of borrowers experiencing income shocks,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic. “Yet the existence of negative equity for the foreseeable future will weigh on the housing market recovery by holding back sale and refinance activity.”

Negative equity occurs when a borrower owes more than the home is worth. “Near-negative” refers to homes with less than 5 percent equity, a figure that would be wiped out by transaction costs if the property were sold.

In Washington state, 16.9 percent of homes had negative equity and 5.8 percent had near-negative equity. Collectively, Washingtonians owe $291.7 billion on 1,412,110 mortgages on properties worth a total of $429.1 billion.

Nevada, where 63 percent of all mortgaged homes are worth less than the outstanding loan balance, led the nation for negative equity. The other top five states were Arizona, 50 percent, Florida, 46 percent, Michigan, 36 percent and California, 31 percent. Nevada, Arizona and Florida showed improvement from the prior quarter.

The average “underwater” home is worth $65,000 less than the outstanding mortgage balance.

Read more: Home equity picture improves, a little | Portland Business Journal

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