Rising Prices Could Lift 3.5M Homeowners Out of Negative Equity

While almost one-quarter of homeowners remain underwater, rising home prices over the past year have some economists hopeful negative equity could begin to diminish in coming months.

“The negative equity problem is still crippling many homeowners and the wider economy,” Capital Economics stated in a report.

In addition to the almost one-fourth of homeowners who owe more on their mortgage loans than their homes are worth, almost half of homeowners do not meet the 80 percent loan-to-value ratio required for a standard refinancing.

While “[a]dmittedly, the recovery is still in its infancy,” Capital Economics sees the potential for 3.5 million homeowners to move out of negative equity positions over the next 12 months.

CoreLogic reports prices have risen 5 percent over the past 12 months, and Capital Economics reports the greatest movement is occurring in the same locations that experienced the greatest price declines and highest instances of foreclosures and negative equity during the housing crisis.

For example, about 40 percent of homeowners in Arizona and Florida are underwater. However, home prices have risen 18.7 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, in these two states over the past year.

While Capital Economics is sticking to its prediction that house prices will rise about 5 percent next year, the economists admit “the upside risks to that forecast are clearly rising.”

So far this year, rising home prices have helped 1.3 million households rise out of negative equity, according to CoreLogic.

If home prices were to rise by 10 percent next year, about 3.5 million borrowers would be lifted out of negative equity and 6 million would become eligible for standard refinancing after seeing their loan-to-value ratios fall back to or below 80 percent.

“The faster prices rebound, the quicker the negative equity problem will be resolved,” Capital Economics stated.

With home prices still about 27 percent below their 2006 peak, 10 percent under-valued compared to current rental rates, and 20 percent under-valued compared to per capita incomes, Capital Economics sees no need for concern over another bubble as prices continue to rise.

By: Krista Franks Brock, DSNews