A whopping 28.6 percent of homeowners with mortgages owe more on their loans than their homes could sell for, according to quarterly data released Tuesday by Zillow, a real estate website. That’s up from 26.8 percent in the second quarter. Home values declined only 0.2 percent from the second quarter but were down 4.4 percent year over year. The rising percentage of homes with “negative equity” or “underwater” status is due largely to how long the foreclosure sale process takes rather than home value fluctuations, said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries. Prior to the “robo-signing” scandal around foreclosures that came to light in 2010, the negative equity rate hovered in the 21 to 23 percent range, but has been in the 26 to 28 range since due to added delays in foreclosure sales. While the rate of foreclosures is dropping, the time required for foreclosures to sell has lengthened. “We’re in uncharted waters,” Humphries said in an interview. “More than one in four homes underwater and about 9 percent unemployment is a recipe for more foreclosures.”
Foreclosure sales are moving so slowly in half the states that at the current pace, it will take more than eight years on average to clear the 2.1 million homes in foreclosure or with seriously delinquent mortgages, new research shows. That’s about twice as long as a year ago in the states where foreclosures go through courts — before the mortgage industry was upended by last fall’s disclosures that court papers in many foreclosure cases were improperly prepared. Since then, new checks have slowed the process. The backlogs suggest that the fallout from the nation’s worst housing-market collapse is likely to weigh on real estate prices in many markets for years to come, and on some markets for longer than on others.
Comment: According to Census data, a total of 76.428 million owner occupied units existed in the U.S. as of 2009. Of those, 50.3 million currently had a mortgage on their property.
Recently, Core Logic estimated that 22.5% of all homes in the U.S. were underwater and another 5% had near negative equity. Additionally, JP Morgan has estimated that 27% of all foreclosures are walkaways.
Zillow’s estimates offer another data point on mortgages, suggesting nearly a third of all homes are now underwater.