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Zillow: Phoenix has second-highest rate of underwater homeowners

 by Kristena Hansen

House life preserver under water

Slightly more than half of Phoenix-area homeowners with mortgages were underwater in the first quarter of 2012, generating roughly $39 billion in total negative equity, according to a report released Thursday from Zillow    Inc.

Many of those metro Phoenix homeowners aren’t so deeply underwater, the report said, with about 23 percent owing anywhere between 1 and 20 percent of the value of their homes.

However, a greater number were much worse off — about 27 percent owed double what their home is worth in the first quarter, the report said. Another 9 percent were at least 90 days delinquent, but the study emphasized that being underwater does not necessarily mean foreclosure is inevitable.

Among the 30 or so markets nationwide the Zillow study examined, Phoenix’s underwater home rate was second highest, although it fared better than the whopping 71 percent Las Vegas had that same quarter.

The overall underwater home rates in Arizona was 52.3 percent in the first quarter and 66.9 percent in Nevada. They were the top two sates in the country for the dubious honor.

Nationwide, nearly one third of mortgage holders, or 15.7 million, were underwater, according to the report. That brings the nation’s total negative equity to about $1.2 trillion in the first quarter, which is a miniscule improvement from the same period last year.

Zillow’s negative equity study puts somewhat of a damper on other reports that show Phoenix home values have continued on an upswing so far this year.

Most recently, the FNC Residential Price Index released figures on Wednesday that showed Valley home prices were 1.4 percent higher in March than the month prior. Nationally, the FNC reported month-over-month home values rose by an average of one-half percent.

“Negative equity remains an issue for the housing market as a whole, and poses a risk to any recovery,” said Stan Humphries,Zillow’s    chief economist. “Not only does negative equity tie many to their homes, by making homeowners unable to move when they may want to, but if economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures.”

Zillow’s reports its data by comparing current values of individual owner-occupied homes with their outstanding loan amounts, which are provided by TransUnion.

Zillow: Phoenix has second-highest rate of underwater homeowners

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