Housing

Cities with the Most Homes Underwater

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.

Read: The Cities with the Most Homes Underwater

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.

10. Orlando, Fla.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 53.9%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 205,369
> Median home value: 113,800
> Decline from prerecession peak: -55.9%
> Unemployment rate: 10.4% (25th highest)

In 2012, Orlando moved into the top 10 underwater housing markets, bumping Fresno, Calif., to number 11. From its prerecession peak in June 2006, home prices fell 55.9% to $113,800, a loss of roughly $90,000. In 2007, the unemployment rate in the region was just 3.7%, the 17th-lowest rate among the 100 largest metros. By 2011, that rate had increased to 10.4%, the 25th highest. As of the first quarter of this year, there were more than 205,000 underwater mortgages in the region, with total negative equity of $16.7 billion.

9. Atlanta, Ga.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 55.5%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 581,831
> Median home value: $107,500
> Decline from prerecession peak: 38.8%
> Unemployment rate: 9.6% (37th highest)

Atlanta is the largest city on this list and the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. But of all the cities with the most underwater mortgages, it has the lowest median home value. In the area, 55.5% of homes have a negative equity value. With more than 500,000 homes with underwater mortgages, the city’s total negative home equity is in excess of $38 billion. Over 48,000 of these underwater homeowners, or nearly 10%, are delinquent by at least 90 days in their payments, which is also especially troubling. With home prices down 38.8% since June, 2007, the Atlanta area certainly qualifies as one of the cities hit hardest by the 2008 housing crisis.

8. Phoenix, Ariz.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 55.5%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 430,527
> Median home value: $128,000
> Decline from prerecession peak: 54.2%
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (44th lowest)

At 55.5%, Phoenix has the same percentage of borrowers with underwater mortgages as Atlanta. Though Phoenix’s median home value is $21,500 greater than Atlanta’s, it experienced a far-greater decline in home prices from their prerecession peak in June 2007 of 54.2%. This has led to a total negative equity value of almost $39 billion. The unemployment rate also has skyrocketed in the Phoenix area from 3.2% in 2007 to 8.6% in 2011.

7. Visalia, Calif.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 57.7%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 33,220
> Median home value: $110,500
> Decline from prerecession peak: 51.7%
> Unemployment rate: 16.6% (3rd highest)

Visalia is far smaller than Atlanta or Phoenix and has less than a 10th the number of homes with underwater mortgages. Nonetheless, the city has been especially damaged by a poor housing market. Home values have fallen dramatically since before the recession, and the unemployment rate, at 16.6% in the first quarter of 2012, is third-highest among the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, behind only Stockton and Modesto. Presently, almost 58% of homes are underwater, with these homes carrying a total negative equity of $2.6 billion dollars.

6. Vallejo, Calif.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 60.3%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 44,526
> Median home value: $186,200
> Decline from prerecession peak: 60.6%
> Unemployment rate: 11.4% (16th highest)

In the Vallejo metropolitan area, more than 60% of the region’s 73,800 homeowners are underwater. This is largely due to a 60.6% decline in home values in the region from prerecession highs. Through the first quarter of this year, homes in the region fell from a median value of more than $300,000 to just $186,200. Of those homes with underwater mortgages, more than 10% have been delinquent on mortgage payments for 90 days or more.

5. Stockton, Calif.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 60.3%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 60,349
> Median home value: $146,500
> Decline from prerecession peak: 64.3%
> Unemployment rate: 16.8% (tied for highest)

With an unemployment rate of 16.8%, Stockton is tied for the highest rate among the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Few cities have been hit harder by the sinking of the housing market than Stockton, where 60.3% of home mortgages are underwater. Though there are only 100,014 houses with mortgages in Stockton, 60,348 of these are underwater and have a total negative home equity of slightly more than $6.9 billion. Meaning, on average, homeowners in Stockton owe at least $100,000 more than their homes are worth.

4. Modesto, Calif.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 60.3%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 46,598
> Median home value: $130,600
> Decline from prerecession peak: 64.5%
> Unemployment rate: 16.8% (tied for highest)

Since peaking in December 2005, home prices in Modesto have plunged 64.5%. This is the largest collapse in prices of any large metro area examined. As a result, 46,598 of 77,222 home mortgages in Modesto are underwater. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose to 16.8% in 2011. This number was 7.9 percentage points above the national average of 8.9% and almost double Modesto’s 2007 unemployment rate of 8.7%.

3. Bakersfield, Calif.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 60.5%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 70,947
> Median home value: $116,700
> Decline from prerecession peak: 57.0%
> Unemployment rate: 14.9% (5th highest)

From its peak in May 2006, the median home value in Bakersfield has plummeted from more than $200,000 to just $116,700, or a 57% loss of value. From 2007 through 2011, the unemployment rate increased from 8.2% to 14.9% — the fifth-highest rate in the country. To date, more than 70,000 homes in the region have underwater mortgages, with total negative equity of just over $6 billion.

2. Reno, Nev.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 61.7%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 46,115
> Median home value: $150,600
> Decline from prerecession peak: 58.3%
> Unemployment rate: 13.1%

There are fewer than 75,000 households in Reno, Nevada. Yet 46,115 home mortgages in the city are underwater, accounting for 61.7% of mortgaged homes. From January 2006 through the first quarter of 2012, home prices were more than halved, and negative home equity reached $4.39 billion. Additionally, the unemployment rate almost tripled in rising from 4.5% in 2007 to 13.1% by 2011. In 2007, Reno had the 54th-worst unemployment rate among the 100 largest metros. By 2007, Reno had the eighth-worst unemployment rate.

1. Las Vegas, Nev.
> Pct. homes w/underwater mortgages: 71%
> Number of mortgages underwater: 236,817
> Median home value: $111,600
> Decline from prerecession peak: 63.2%
> Unemployment rate: 13.9%

At 71%, no city has a greater percentage of homes with underwater mortgages than Las Vegas. The area with the second-worst percentage of underwater mortgages, Reno, has less than 62% mortgages with negative. The corrosive effects the housing crisis had on Las Vegas are evident in the more than 200,000 home mortgages that are underwater, 14.3% of which are at least 90 days delinquent on payments. Additionally, home values have dropped 63.2% from their prerecession peak, the third-greatest decline among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Largely because of the collapse of the area’s housing market, unemployment in the Las Vegas area has soared. In 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.7%, only marginally different from the nation’s 4.6% rate. Yet by 2011, the unemployment rate had increased to 13.9%, considerably higher than the nationwide 8.9% unemployment rate.

Michael B. Sauter

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