Over the last 12 months, the number of underwater mortgages in the U.S. has fallen 35 percent, According to the Mortgage Monitor report released by Black Knight Financial Services this morning. It dropped 16 percent in just the first quarter of 2017.
In total, 1.8 million American homeowners currently owe more on their home loans than their property is worth. Though this is the first time the number has dropped below 2 million since 2006, it’s still much higher than pre-crisis levels. At the end of 2005, just 750,000 borrowers owed more than their home was worth.
According to Ben Graboske, EVP of Data & Analytics at Black Knight, rising home prices are continuing to improve homeowners’ equity stakes.
“This is plainly visible in the number of borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth,” Graboske said. “Over the past year, we’ve seen a 35 percent decline in the total underwater population, with a 16 percent decline in that population over the first three months of 2017 alone. Home prices rose 2.3 percent in the first quarter, as compared to 1.8 percent over the same period last year, helping an additional 350,000 borrowers regain equity in their homes.”
The report also showed that almost half of all borrowers with negative equity own homes in the lower 20 percent of the market, price wise. In fact, homeowners in this price tier are twice as likely to be underwater as those one tier up and a whopping 6.5 times more likely than Americans who own homes in the top 20 percent price range. That’s the highest differential in negative equity since Black Knight launched its Mortgage Monitor in 2005, Graboske said.
“What stands out is the disparity we see in this improvement,” Graboske said. “As has been the case for some time now, negative equity has become more and more a localized phenomenon. But it’s also becoming concentrated among a particular class of homeowner. Nearly half of all borrowers who remain underwater own homes in the lowest 20 percent of prices in their respective markets. While the nation as a whole now has a negative equity rate of just 3.6 percent, among owners in that lowest price tier, it’s over 8 percent.”
Underwater borrowers also tend to be more concentrated in geographic areas, according to the report, which shows that Detroit, Cleveland, and Memphis, Tennessee, account for more than 25 percent of all underwater borrowers in the lowest price tier. Detroit borrowers with a home in the bottom price tier are also 50 times more like to be underwater than those whose homes are in the top 20 percent.