Low-Value Homes Leading the Climb Out of Negative Equity

Low-Value Homes Leading the Climb Out of Negative Equity

Low-Value Homes Leading the Climb Out of Negative Equity

The FINANCIAL -- The U.S. negative equity rate dropped below 15 percent in the second quarter of 2015, according to the Zillow Negative Equity Reporti, but nearly 20 percent of condo-owners remain underwater. 

Condo-owners were in far worse shape than single-family homeowners in Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas. And in only three markets – Detroit, Memphis, and Pittsburgh – single-family homeowners were more likely to be underwater than condo-owners.

A high rate of homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth is a lingering effect of the real estate crisis. At its worst, more than 15 million homeowners were upside down on their homes. Foreclosures, short sales and rapidly rising home values freed nearly half of those homeowners, leaving 7.4 million homeowners upside down at the end of Q2 2015.

The continued decline of the overall negative equity rate was fueled in the first half of the year by strong appreciation for the least valuable third of homes. The least valuable homes are much more likely to be underwater than more valuable homesii.

In the Atlanta market, for example, nearly 43 percent of the least valuable homes are in negative equity, while only 9.4 percent of high-end homes are underwater. Annual home value appreciation among the least valuable homes in Atlanta had slowed for 12 straight months through June 2015. However, low-end homes have been appreciating annually more than more valuable homes. Since June 2014, annual appreciation in the bottom tier outpaced home value appreciation among all Atlanta homes, likely helping drive negative equity down there from 29 percent to 21 percent year-over-year.

Similar trends played out in Sacramento, Riverside, and Phoenix, all places that have struggled with high rates of negative equity.

"If the overall negative equity rate is going to continue to fall, it will need to keep being driven down by improving health at the bottom end of the market," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "The least valuable homes really bore the brunt of negative equity during the recession, and that's where most negative equity remains concentrated today. As more first-time buyers enter the market seeking these less expensive homes, home value growth at the bottom end could continue to outpace growth overall, which will be good news for millions of underwater homeowners in these homes."

Among the 35 largest housing markets, Las Vegas, Chicago and Atlanta continued to have the highest rates of homeowners in negative equity. Condo-owners had the highest rates of negative equity in Las Vegas (36.7 percent), Chicago (32.6 percent), and Orlando (29.9 percent), while single-family homeowners had the highest rates in Las Vegas (23.8 percent), Atlanta (20.4 percent) and Chicago (19.2 percent).