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Under Water Mortgages Threaten Recovery

November 24th, 2009 by flanews

A new study shows nearly half of Florida homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Falling home prices are the main cause of the underwater mortgages. As Whitney Ray tells us, the phenomenon could lead to another wave of foreclosures and delay recovery in the state’s housing market.

Florida is a buyer’s market. Home prices are down and there’s a tax credit for first and second time buyers. Sales are up a staggering 45 percent over a year ago.

“We are definitely on the road to recovery with 14 months of increased home sales in Florida, much better than the national average,” said John Sebree with the Florida Association of Realtors.

But the increase in home sales comes at a price, and that price is falling property values. About half of Floridians own a home that is worth less than their mortgage.

Folks who bought a house in Florida a year ago paid on average 30-thousand dollars more than people buying now. Prices fell 17 percent over last year, raising concerns for homeowners. Alex Sanchez, the president of the Florida Bankers Association, says borrowers need to be patient.

“I think home values will come back and I think people should be educated first before they walk away from a home and turn the keys in. There are a lot of repercussions to making that type of decision,” said Sanchez.

But if enough folks lose the faith and walk away, then Florida could be hit with a second wave of foreclosures. The Florida Homebuilders Association says a second wave could flood an already saturated housing market.

“We do have to monitor what’s going on with short sales, with foreclosures and unemployment, because that can edge the number back up in terms of months supply on the market,” said David Hart with the Florida Homebuilders Association.

The best advice bankers, builders, and real estate agents have for worried homeowners is to ride out the storm of falling values.

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