The Housing Chronicles Blog: More than 1 in 5 homeowners now underwater

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More than 1 in 5 homeowners now underwater

According to the number crunchers at Zillow, more than 1 in 5 of homeowners in the U.S. are now technically under-water on their mortgages. At the same time, however, there has been a flattening in the rate of decline for certain markets, including parts of the Central Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego -- which may or may not indicate that the end is closer than before. Still, even when we hit bottom, expect so stay there for awhile. A story at Reuters explains:

Home values in the United States extended their fall in the first quarter, with more than one in five homeowners now owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, real estate website Zillow.com said on Wednesday.

U.S. home values posted a year-over-year decline of 14.2 percent to a Zillow Home Value Index of $182,378, resulting in a total 21.8 percent drop since the market peaked in 2006, according to Zillow's first-quarter Real Estate Market Reports, which encompass 161 metropolitan areas and cover the value changes in all homes, not just homes that have recently sold...

Nine consecutive quarters of declines have left eight regions -- including the Modesto, California, Stockton, California, and Fort Myers, Florida regions -- with median value declines of more than 50 percent since those markets peaked...

But in an early sign of improvement, 17 metropolitan areas across the country -- notably several hard-hit markets in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Modesto -- have seen two or more consecutive quarters of smaller year-over-year declines in home values, the reports showed.

Meanwhile, potential sellers appear to be holding back until evidence of an improved housing market. In a separate survey of homeowner sentiment, nearly one-third, or 31 percent, of homeowners said they would be at least somewhat likely to put their homes on the market in the next 12 months if they saw signs of a recovering real estate market, the reports showed...

"Slowing declines in select markets are a bright spot or, at least, what passes for one given current market conditions," Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow vice president of data and analytics, said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, given the magnitude of the current rates of decline, we're still many months away from a bottom even as depreciation slows," he said. "Moreover, the additional information we have this quarter on 'shadow inventory,' with one-third of homeowners indicating they would like to put their home on the market if conditions improve, confirms our earlier fears that a bottom in home values could be quite protracted."

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