According to the third quarter Zillow Negative Equity Report, the national negative equity rate fell at its fastest pace in the third quarter, dropping to 21% of all homeowners with a mortgage underwater from 31.4% at its peak in the first quarter of 2012. In the third quarter of 2013, more than 1.4 million American homeowners were freed from negative equity, and 4.9 million mortgaged homeowners have been freed since the beginning of 2012. However, roughly 10.8 million homeowners with a mortgage still remain underwater (Figure 1). Moreover, the effective negative equity rate nationally — where the loan-to-value ratio is more than 80%, making it difficult for a homeowner to afford the down payment on another home — is 39.2% of homeowners with a mortgage. While not all of these homeowners are underwater, they have relatively little equity in their homes, and therefore selling and buying a new home while covering all of the associated costs (real estate agent fees, closing costs and a new down payment) would be difficult (Figure 2). Of all homeowners – roughly one-third of homeowners do not have a mortgage and own their homes free and clear – 14.7% are underwater.
The aggressive quarterly drop in negative equity in the third quarter was driven by high rates of home value appreciation, especially in regions with large numbers of underwater homeowners. Some of the hardest-hit markets during the housing bust have been showing the highest rates of home value appreciation, despite recent slowdowns in appreciation rates.
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