As the housing market continues to recover in the United States, home owners who are underwater on their mortgages are increasingly concentrated in the Rust Belt, according to the latest real estate report.
The data from the Negative Equity Report from real estate firm Zillow also shows that West Coast home owners are less likely to be in negative equity.
Nationally, 12.7% of home owners with a mortgage were in negative equity, meaning they owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth. However, negative equity is down from a peak level of 31.4% in the first quarter of 2012.
For years, Las Vegas has been the prime example of the housing bubble and bust, with nearly three quarters of mortgaged home owners underwater when the market bottomed out in in the first quarter of 2012.
But Chicago now has the highest negative equity rate among large US markets, surpassing Las Vegas in the first quarter of 2016. At its worst, Chicago had a 41.1% rate of negative equity, but its recovery has been sluggish and the negative equity rate has declined more slowly than elsewhere.
As the housing market recovered, the distribution of underwater home owners across the country has shifted. In the first quarter of 2012, the West Coast, Southeast, and Rust Belt regions had a disproportionately greater share of underwater home owners. For example, the Southeast had 20.4% of homes with a mortgage, but 24.9% of homes in negative equity.
Four years later, the West Coast, home to hot markets like the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle, has only 10.2% of home owners with negative equity, but 15.2% of all mortgaged home owners.
The imbalance was worst in the Rust Belt region, which includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, and which had an unevenly large share of underwater home owners.
‘When the housing bubble burst, the West Coast had more than its fair share of underwater homeowners. But the strong local economy and job markets have significantly helped these housing markets recover, and several are now more expensive than they were during the housing bubble,’ said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell.
‘Other parts of the country didn't get those same benefits, and until market fundamentals improve, home owners and buyers in these areas will be facing disproportionately higher levels of negative equity as they navigate the housing market,’ she added.
The data also shows that four of the 10 metros with the highest rates of negative equity are in the Rust Belt. Meanwhile, the West Coast is home to five of the 10 metros with the lowest levels of negative equity.