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Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

(MoneyWatch) The number of U.S. homes that are worth less than their mortgages rose late last year and is now back to 2009 levels. More than 11 million, or 22.8 percent, of all residential properties with a mortgage had negative equity in the fourth quarter of 2011 and were considered "underwater," according to market research firm CoreLogic.

Negative and near-negative equity mortgages (those with less than five percent equity) accounted for nearly 28 percent of all residential mortgages nationwide in the fourth quarter.

Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic, believes it could be awhile before we see substantial improvement in the number of underwater mortgages. "The high level of negative equity and the inability to pay is the 'double trigger' of default, and the reason we have such a significant foreclosure pipeline," he said in a statement. "While the economic recovery will reduce the propensity of the inability to pay trigger, negative equity will take an extended period of time to improve, and if there is a hiccup in the economic recovery it could mean a rise in foreclosures."

Click through to see which U.S. states have the highest rate of underwater homeowners (All home price and sale information is from

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

10. Virginia

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 23 percent

Like the rest of the nation, Virginia was not immune to the housing market crash. In Richmond, Virginia's capital, median sale prices are down 15.5 percent year-over-year. The average home in the state sold for $125,483 from December 2011 to February 2012, and sales fell 38 percent from the same time last year.

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Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

9. Ohio

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 23.9 percent

Despite an increase of 5 percent in median home prices, the real estate market in Ohio's capital city of Columbus remains depressed. The average list price of a home there in the last week of February was $143,363, but the average sale price was only $82,000 from December 2011 to February 2012. Home sales decreased more than 90 percent year-over-year, according to

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

8. Maryland

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 24.3 percent

Maryland has a relatively high rate of underwater mortgages, and the real estate market is still struggling in certain areas. Median sale prices in Maryland capital Annapolis have decreased more than $38,000 year-over-year, to $348,250. That's a decline of 10 percent. Sales dropped 40 percent over the same time period.

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Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

7. Idaho

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 25 percent

Idaho has more than 64,000 mortgages with negative equity, according to mortgage data provider CoreLogic. In Boise, the state's capital and biggest city, median sale prices are down 14.5 percent year-over-year to $124,050, and sales dropped 63.5 percent.

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

6. California

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 29.9 percent

Much of California's housing market is still struggling as a result of the housing crash, and state capital Sacramento is no exception. The average sale price in the city fell 6.4 percent year-over-year to $124,000, while sales dropped 14.2 percent.

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Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

5. Georgia

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 33 percent

Georgia is the first state on this list to have more than 30 percent of mortgages in negative equity. The state capital, Atlanta, has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, and home prices have suffered. Median sale prices fell 12.7 percent year-over-year to $161,150, and home sales dropped more than 23 percent.

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

4. Michigan

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 34.7 percent

When you think about home prices in Michigan, you probably think of the devastation in Detroit. But the entire state has been affected. While median sales price in the capital city of Lansing rose 71 percent year-over-year to $119,907, home sales fell 92.7 percent during the same period.

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

3. Florida

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 44.2 percent

Florida also was decimated by the housing crisis. In the state's capital, Tallahassee, median year-over-year sales prices fell 14.7 percent to $122,000. In the same span, the number of homes sold fell 33.2 percent.

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

2. Arizona

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 48.3 percent

Property values nosedived in Arizona after the housing bubble burst, and prices remain low. In Phoenix, the capital and the state's most populous city, the median sales price fell 2.7 percent, to $87,500 year-over-year. Home sales dropped 26.5 percent.

Top 10 states for 'underwater' mortgages

1. Nevada

Percentage of mortgages underwater: 61.1 percent

Not surprisingly, Nevada tops the list -- by a wide margin. Prices plummeted when the housing crisis hit, and they've yet to recover. Year-over-year, median sale prices in the state's capital of Carson City fell 24.2 percent, to $125,000. Home sales also plunged, dropping 64.1 percent.

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