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Nearly one third of American mortgages are underwater



“Underwater” is such a gentle way of saying that a homeowner owes more than their homes are worth. “Underwater” is such a politically correct way of describing an experience that is more like drowning or being drowned.

Imagine you’re hosting a party at your house and all of your neighbors are there. Let’s say there are 10 different neighbors with you… three of them most likely are underwater/drowning. Maybe one of them is you.

As home prices continue to slowly slide, rates of homeowners with mortgages that are underwater has risen 23.2% from just a quarter ago to settle at 27% according to search site

The same report discovered that more than a third of all homes were sold in December at a loss.

“While the tax credits did not hurt the housing market, they did delay its bottom by interrupting the housing correction that was taking place,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist. “Home value trends in the fourth quarter remained grim, but the good news is that these declines, while painful in the short-term, mean we’re getting closer to the bottom. The housing recession is likely in its death throes, and we expect to see sales pick up in early 2011. That will lead the way to home values stabilizing and an eventual bottom later this year, although it will take several months of increased sales activity before values begin to respond.”

Methodology according to Zillow:

(1) The data in Zillow’s Real Estate Market Reports is aggregated from public sources by a number of data providers for 132 Metropolitan Statistical Areas dating back to 1996. Mortgage and home loan data is typically recorded in each county and publicly available through a county recorder’s office.

(2) The Zillow Home Value Index is the median Zestimate® valuation for a given geographic area on a given day and includes the value of all single-family residences, condominiums and cooperatives, regardless of whether they sold within a given period. The Home Value Index at the national level is calculated using a weighted average of the median home value for each county and includes data from 440 metropolitan statistical areas. It is expressed in dollars and is for a particular geographic region.

(3) Foreclosures are defined as a Trustee’s Deed Upon Sale or equivalent transaction.

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  1. Marty Hunt

    February 10, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Lani, while I realize this post is pretty much the comments from Zillow, the example of 3 out of ten homeowners at a party being underwater on their mortgages in inaccurate at best.

    First, all ten of those people would have to be homeowners and well over 30% of all people aren’t so there goes three of the ten “underwater” friends. And take all of those who don’t have mortgages at all…people who own their homes the old fashioned way, outright. I don’t have a stat on how many homes don’t have mortgages but in many areas I suppose 20-30% (or more?) of homeowners own their homes free and clear so there goes a few other neighbors in the party circle of ten who are homeowners and not underwater.

    I suppose in the average group of ten friends got in a circle there would be less than half of the 30% mentioned in the ubiquitous headlines about the number of underwater mortgages. The consumer reads this, as you presented this, that 3 of 10 people are underwater and they don’t consider that five of ten don’t have a mortgage to begin with (renters or free and clears). So while 30% of all mortgages may be underwater, it is a gross overstatement that 3 out of 10 people standing in a circle at my party are “drowning”. Maybe 1.5 would be more accurate.

    It’s not as much fun for Zillow or the news services to promote headlines that 15% of all homes are underwater (when we consider ALL homes). It’s much juicier to say “30% of all home with mortgages are underwater”. It paints a more desperate picture of a very sad and serious situation but I guess it grabs the readers to think 30% of people are drowning when it might actually be half that number.

    In the industry we shouldn’t prmote the gloom and doom and no one seems to point out the fact that 3 of 10 friends really aren’t drowning. And it’s certainly not going to grab eyeballs to say 85% of all people are NOT drowning becuase 30% are renters and maybe another 30% own their homes outright.

    Love AG and your posts!

  2. Andrew Mooers

    February 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Glad you pointed out there are a slew of home owners that have no mortgage. My state is 46th lowest for FSSR (foreclosure, short sale, repossession) tainted, caused home sales. In the best of economies, what is the “standard” percentage of FSSR anyway? It takes putting it all in perspective.

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Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?



Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.



aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.



zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub,, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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