Mortgage debt continues to be a major issue in the United States, nearly six years after home prices peaked, according to a report released Thursday by online real estate site Zillow. Americans continue to owe more on their homes than they are worth. Nearly one in three mortgages are underwater, amounting to more than 15 million homes and a total negative equity of $1.19 trillion.
In some of America’s largest metropolitan regions, however, the housing crash dealt a far worse blow. In these areas — most of which are in California, Florida and the southwest — home values were cut in half, unemployment skyrocketed, and 50% to 70% of borrowers now find themselves with a home worth less than the value of their mortgage. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 100 largest housing markets and identified the 10 with the highest percentage of homes with underwater mortgages.
Svenja Gudell, senior economist at Zillow, explained in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. that the markets with the highest rates of underwater borrowers are in trouble now because of the rampant growth seen in these cities prior to the recession. Once home prices peaked, which was primarily in late 2005 through 2006, all but one of these 10 housing markets lost at least 50% of their median home value.
Making matters worse for families with high negative equity in these markets is the increased unemployment. “If you have a whole lot of unemployment in an area, you’re more likely to see home values continue to decline in the area as well,” says Gudell. While in 2007 many of these markets had average or below average unemployment rates, the recession took a heavy toll on their economies. By 2011, eight of the 10 markets had unemployment rates above 10%, and three — all in California — had unemployment rates of above 16%, nearly double the national average.
24/7 Wall St. used Zillow’s first-quarter 2012 negative equity report to identify the 10 housing markets — out of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country — with the highest percentage of underwater mortgages. Zillow also provided us with the decline in home values in these markets from prerecession peak values, the total negative equity value in these markets and the percentage of homes underwater that have been delinquent on payments for 90 days or more.
These are the cities with the most homes underwater.