Daniel Taub
May 6, 2009

A growing number of U.S. homeowners owe more than their properties are worth after prices extended their two-year decline in the first quarter, Zillow.com said.

[efoods]About 21.8 percent of all owners were underwater as of March 31, the Seattle-based real estate data service said in a report today. At the end of the fourth quarter, 17.6 percent of homeowners owed more than their original mortgage, while 14.3 percent had negative equity three months earlier.

Property values dropped 14 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, reducing the median value of U.S. single- family homes, condominiums and cooperatives to $182,378, Zillow said. The decline has left about 20.4 million of the U.S.’s 93 million houses, condos and co-ops with loans higher than the properties are worth. The gain in underwater homeowners will lead to more bank repossessions, Zillow said.

Many owners “would be more willing to bear the financial consequences of bankruptcy or foreclosure,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s vice president of data and analytics, said in an interview. “You are going to continue to see home prices fall for the rest of this year and some portion of next year.”

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