Negative equity, often referred to as "underwater" or "upside down," means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.
The national aggregate value of negative equity was $397 billion at the end of the third quarter compared to $430 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2013, a decrease of $33.7 billion. This decrease was driven in large part by an improvement in home prices.
Of the 42.6 million residential properties with positive equity, 10 million have less than 20 percent equity. Borrowers with less than 20 percent equity, referred to as "under-equitied," may have a more difficult time obtaining new financing for their homes due to underwriting constraints. Under-equitied mortgages accounted for 20.4 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in the third quarter of 2013, with more than 1.5 million residential properties at less than 5 percent equity, referred to as near-negative equity. Properties that are near negative equity are considered at risk should home prices fall.
"Rising home prices continued to help homeowners regain their lost equity in the third quarter of 2013," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Fewer than 7 million homeowners are underwater, with a total mortgage debt of $1.6 trillion. Negative equity will decline even further in the coming quarters as the housing market continues to improve."
"We should see a further rebound in consumer confidence and economic growth in 2014 as more homeowners escape the negative equity trap," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Home price appreciation has helped more than 3 million property owners regain equity since the first quarter of 2013."
read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20131217-904750.html?dsk=y