If you are shopping for a house in Verona this weekend, you might want to keep this in mind: A far smaller percentage of mortgages are underwater in Verona than in the rest of New Jersey–or the country at large.
According to a new report from CoreLogic, 11.4 million properties nationwide, or 23.7% of all U.S. homes with a mortgage, are now underwater. A house is said to be underwater when the homeowner owes more on the mortgage than the home is worth. It is difficult–if not impossible–to refinance a home with a mortgage that is underwater because the owner’s equity has been wiped out.
The CoreLogic data is from the first quarter of 2012, and it is down from 25.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011. In the fourth quarter of 2009, 25.7% of all mortgages nationwide had negative equity.
In New Jersey, 18.9% of the mortgaged properties had negative equity, compared with 30.5% in California, 43.4% in Arizona, 45.1% in Florida and and 61.2% in Nevada, where buyers rolled the dice on ever rising real estate prices and came up snake eyes.
So what about Verona, you ask? CoreLogic has released only state-level data in its report. To get a bit more granular, we turned to the real estate information Web site Zillow.com, which uses a different process than CoreLogic to calculate negative equity.
Zillow’s data indicates that, as of the end of the first quarter of 2012, 11% of Verona homes were underwater. That’s better than Montclair, where 19% of the homes are so burdened and way better than West Orange, where 29% of the homes are underwater. But it is not as good as Cedar Grove, the Caldwells and Livingston, where only 9% of the houses have negative equity. (To calculate negative equity, Zillow uses the estimated value of a home and all outstanding mortgage debt and lines of credit associated with the home, including home equity lines of credit and home equity loans.)
But Verona still looks pretty good compared to other towns in New Jersey. According to Zillow’s negative equity map, there are large swaths of Warren and Sussex counties where the share of troubled properties is above 25%. In Camden county and Atlantic county, the percentages are 36% and 38%, respectively. The percentage for Essex County as a whole is 29%, driven largely by Newark, where more than 61% of the homes are underwater.