Underwater homes at lowest point since Great Recession

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Home price gains continued during the fourth quarter and pushed the share of upside-down mortgages to the lowest level since the housing crisis, according to CoreLogic's Home Equity Report.

Underwater properties decreased 15% year-over-year — a decline of 330,000 homes — to 1.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. A total of 3.5% of all mortgaged properties have negative equity. The total amount of properties underwater compared to mortgage debt outstanding was approximately $283 billion at the end of 2019, down from $302.6 billion in the third quarter and $303 billion the year before.

"The number of underwater homes in the United States has fallen to the lowest level since the Great Recession. In general, Western states and those in the mid-Atlantic region are registering strong gains, compared to states in the Northeast and upper Midwest," Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in a press release. "With unprecedented low rates and constrained supply, the housing market should continue to do well. Viewed against the backdrop of the recent stock market volatility, steady gains in home equity are a welcome source of stability."

Overall, equity increased on mortgaged homes by 5.4% annually in 2019's fourth quarter, totaling a gain of $489 billion for an average of $7,300 per homeowner.

"The CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded a quickening of home price gains during the fourth quarter of 2019, helping to boost home equity wealth," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "The average family with a mortgage had a $7,343 gain in home equity during the past year, and a total of $177,000 in home equity wealth."

Home equity grew annually in 45 of the 50 states during the fourth quarter, as Idaho homeowners led with an average of $18,672. Wyoming's $17,948 came next, followed by $14,784 in Arizona and $14,475 in New Hampshire. Illinois and North Dakota had the lowest equity growth at $1,577 and $2,988, respectively, and no states had equity depreciation. There was insufficient data regarding home values in Maine, Mississippi, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

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Appraisals Home prices Housing market Home prices RMBS CoreLogic