Underwater Mortgages Rise

The percentage of homeowners with mortgages who owe more than their homes are worth continued to rise during the first quarter, but only 1 in 10 of underwater homeowners are seriously delinquent on their loans, according to estimates released today by real estate search portal Zillow.

Zillow — which looks at outstanding loan amounts on individual properties, and compares them with estimated valuations for each home that are generated by computer models — estimates that 15.7 million homes were underwater during the first three months of the year.

That’s 31.4 percent of all homes with mortgages, up from 31.1 percent during the last three months of 2011 (not all homeowners have mortgages).

Although just 10.1 percent of underwater homeowners were more than 90 days behind on their mortgage payments, that represents nearly 1.6 million homes that could eventually hit the market as distressed properties.

Numbers like that can put fear into the hearts of would-be homebuyers, since distressed properties sell at discounts that can drag down home prices. Those effects are highly dependent on individual market conditions.

Zillow estimates that nationwide, about 2.4 million underwater homeowners owe more than double what their home is worth. In the Las Vegas metro area, 26.8 percent of homeowners with mortgages are that deeply underwater — nearly 90,000 homes.

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