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Almost 1 in 5 Baltimore-area homeowners underwater

Three years after the official end of the longest recession since World War II, nearly one in five mortgaged homes in the Baltimore metro area was still underwater, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic.

In the second quarter of this year, 18.3 percent of Baltimore-area residences with a mortgage — 116,301 properties — were worth less than what their owners owed, the firm announced this month.

Still, that's an improvement. In the first quarter of 2012, 19.7 percent of homes in and around Baltimore were upside-down, the number-crunching company said.

An additional 4.8 percent of Baltimore-area abodes, 30,645 homes, had less than five percent equity during the second quarter, CoreLogic's analysis concluded. That was down from five percent in the first three months of the year.

The Baltimore region's percent of underwater or nearly underwater properties was slightly better than the nation as a whole during the second quarter, the firm said. Nationwide, 27 percent of mortgaged properties were in negative equity or nearly so, down from 28.5 percent earlier in the year.

At the end of June, Americans were underwater $689 billion — $2 billion less than at the end of March. Only about 15 percent of underwater borrowers were not current on their mortgage payments during Q2, according to CoreLogic.

"The level of negative equity continues to improve with more than 1.3 million households regaining a positive equity position since the beginning of the year," said Mark Fleming, CoreLogic's chief economist, in a statement.

He attributes the significant number of homes returning to the black to increasing home prices, tighter inventory and lender-owned sales making up a smaller slice of the housing market.

Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in the statement that the firm projects 2 million more U.S. residences would emerge from the depths of negative equity if home prices across the country rose 5 percent.

Nallathambi posits that if the summer's trend of home price increases were to continue through the year's end, "we could see significant reductions in the number of borrowers in negative equity by next year."

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