More than a fifth of U.S. homeowners owed more than their properties were worth in the fourth quarter as the number of houses and condominiums lost to foreclosure climbed to a record, according to Zillow.com.
In the fourth quarter, 21.4 percent of owners of mortgaged homes were underwater, up from 21 percent in the previous three months and down from 23 percent in the second quarter, the Seattle-based real estate data provider said today in a report. More than one in 1,000 homes were repossessed by lenders in December, the highest rate in Zillow data dating back to 2000.
Underwater homes are more likely lost to foreclosure because their owners have a harder time refinancing or selling when they get behind on loan payments. U.S. home values dropped 5 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the 12th straight quarter of year-over-year declines, Zillow said.
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