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Rising home prices helped more than 700,000 homeowners regain equity in their homes during first quarter, but 11.4 million borrowers still owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth, according to the latest report from data aggregator CoreLogic.
The number of U.S homeowners with negative equity declined by 6 percent in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter, leaving 23.7 percent of all homes with mortgages underwater. That's down from 25.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
When the 2.3 million borrowers with less than 5 percent equity, which CoreLogic calls "near-negative equity," are included, 28.5 percent of mortgaged homes were either underwater or nearly underwater in the first quarter, down from 30.1 percent.
All told, negative equity nationwide totaled $691 billion in the first quarter, down from $742 billion the previous quarter. The decrease was largely due to home-price increases, CoreLogic said.
"This is a meaningful improvement that is driven by quickly improving outlooks in some of the hardest-hit markets. While the overall stagnating economic recovery will likely slow housing market recovery in the second half of this year, reducing the number of underwater households is an important step toward reducing future mortgage default risk."
Some 1.9 million borrowers were only 5 percent upside down in the first quarter, meaning further price appreciation could move them into positive territory. Negative equity is concentrated at the low end of the market, CoreLogic said. Among homes under $200,000, 31 percent were upside down, compared with 15.9 percent among homes worth more than $200,000.
The majority of the underwater homeowners -- 6.9 million -- had only a first mortgage with no home equity loans, and owed an average of $212,000 on their mortgages with negative equity averaging $47,000.