1/4 of All Mortgages are Upside Down

Feb. 23, 2010, 6:21 p.m. EST

11.3 million homeowners underwater on mortgage

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- More than 11.3 million homeowners -- nearly one-fourth of all Americans with a mortgage -- owe more on their loan than their home is now worth, according to a report released Tuesday by FirstAmerican CoreLogic. More than 10% of people with mortgages owe 25% more than their home is worth. The number of underwater mortgages increased by about 620,000 from the third quarter, the firm said. Another 2.3 million mortgages had less than 5% equity in their home, which could be wiped out if home prices fall further.

U.S. banks in transition

Jayan Dhru, Standard & Poor's global head of Financial Services Ratings, says U.S. banks are still in recovery mode as they manage the credit cycle while reducing leverage and risk. Reforming the banking sector will have unintended consequences on the broader economy.
In the fourth quarter, national home prices fell 1.1% compared with the third quarter, Standard & Poor's reported in a separate report on Tuesday. See full story on Case-Shiller home price index. Once the mortgage is underwater, owners cannot easily sell their home or refinance their loan. Underwater mortgages are concentrated in few states: California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan and Georgia. In Nevada, 70% of mortgages were underwater. In California, more than a third of mortgages were underwater. "The rise in negative equity is closely tied to increases in pre-foreclosure activity," CoreLogic said. Once a homeowner owes 25% more than the house is worth, foreclosure rates rise sharply. Nega
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