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Rising national home prices helped many homeowners gain equity in their homes in the fourth quarter of 2016. However, despite all 50 states recording a decrease in negative equity, many homeowners with negative equity are still deep underwater.

Homeowner equity increased to $63 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to a new report released today by the real estate data analysis firm CoreLogic. Thanks to rising home prices, 62,000 homeowners regained equity in the fourth quarter 2016 — bringing the total number of residential homes in the US with equity to 48 million.

If home prices rose an additional 5 percent, an additional 600,000 homes would regain equity, says CoreLogic data.

All states recorded a year-over-year decrease in negative equity in the fourth quarter, Florida recorded the largest improvement in its negative equity share — decreasing almost 5 percentage points. Negative equity, or being “underwater,” is when a homeowner owes more on a mortgage than it is worth.

CoreLogic estimates that 6.2 percent of all mortgaged homes have negative equity.

“Home equity gains were the strongest in faster-appreciating and higher-priced home markets,” said CEO and president of CoreLogic Frank Martell.

Despite there being fewer homeowners underwater, more than half who are owe at least 20 percent or more than their homes are worth, according to the listing site Zillow’s 2016 Q4 Negative Equity Report published earlier this week. And, the “depth of the negative equity” is sure to continue to be a “drag” on the housing market — even after national home values return to their pre-housing crisis levels.

Last year, 1.2 million homeowners who were underwater were able to regain positive equity in their homes, says Zillow. But 5 million homeowners remain underwater on their mortgages.
A little under 45 percent of all underwater homeowners are within 20 percent of gaining positive equity, says the listing site.

And the percentage of homeowners who were underwater at the end of 2016 dropped to 10.5 percent compared to the 13.1 percent recorded the previous year.

The heightened acceleration of home value appreciation still left many underwater homeowners deep underwater and unable to list their homes. And, it further limits the already tight national inventory.

In the New York metro area, the percentage of underwater homeowners decreased to 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, down from the 11.4 percent recorded the previous year. The percentage of underwater homeowners within 20 percent of positive equity dropped to 44 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from the nearly 46 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“Negative equity is one of the most persistent reminders of the long-term losses suffered when the housing market collapsed,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

He added that the accelerated home value appreciation was a “blessing” to homeowners who had been underwater since the housing bubble burst, but it did not help all underwater homeowners regain positive equity.

“We are in for many more years of elevated levels of negative equity. Even as median home values close in on peak levels reached during the housing boom, some people still face a long wait before returning to a positive balance on their home loans,” Gudell concluded.

Click here to read the entire CoreLogic report, and here to read the entire Zillow report.

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