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News Link • Housing

The curse of negative home equity

Wesley Ulloa bought her first condo for $230,000 in 2007, and watched helplessly as it lost two-thirds of its value during South Florida’s historic housing market tailspin. The 24-year-old real estate agent has been selling units in her Coconut Grove building for $80,000, a figure that makes her shudder each month as she makes her mortgage payment. She’s one of hundreds of thousands of South Floridians coping with the reality of being underwater on their mortgages—one of the most widespread side effects of the real estate market collapse. “I get a little angry. I think ‘Man I bought this for $230,000 and for what I’m paying, I could be in a house’,” she said. “But I can’t dwell on it. I mean, what are you going to do?” As more than $113 billion worth of home equity has vanished from South Florida’s housing market in the past five years, the number of homeowners with mortgages that are larger than the values of their properties has become enormous. More than 300,000 South Florida mortgages—or 43 percent of them—are currently underwater, the highest level in decades, if not ever. That’s about four times the number of homes in foreclosure.

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