Cash-out in style again

Posted in Housing Recovery, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 44 Comments

From HousingWire:

Black Knight: Cash-out refis up 68% since 2Q 2014

Cash-out refinances were up 68% year-over-year from the second quarter of 2014, as borrowers take advantage of still-low rates and newfound equity in their homes, according to Black Knight Financial Services.

This is the highest volume of cash-out refinancing in five years, but still nearly 80% below the peak in 2005.

As Black Knight Data & Analytics Senior Vice President Ben Graboske explained, borrowers have been capitalizing on increased equity available in their homes and still historically low rates. 

“In the second quarter of 2015, we saw cash-out refinance volumes rise almost 70% from the same period last year,” said Graboske. “While this is the highest volume in cash-out refinances we’ve seen in five years, it’s still nearly 80% below the peak in Q3 2005. Even so, it’s clear that borrowers have been capitalizing on the increased equity available to them.

“As we reported in last month’s Mortgage Monitor, total equity of mortgage holders has risen by about $1 trillion over the last year, and ‘tappable’ equity stands at $4.5 trillion,” he said. “Borrowers today are pulling out an average of $67,000 of equity through cash-out refis, nearly the levels we saw back in 2006. What’s really interesting though, is that even after pulling out that equity, resulting average LTVs are at 68%, the lowest level we’ve seen in over 10 years.”

In its analysis of refinance transactions in comparison to prior loans, Black Knight also found that the distribution of cash-out refinances is highly concentrated geographically, with over 30% of all such transactions occurring in California alone.

Texas is second among states in terms of cash-out refinance volume, at just 7% of the nation’s total. Looking at Q2 2015 refinances in general, the data shows that borrowers are saving an average of $136 in principal and interest each month through refinance and cutting their interest rates by just over one%; the lowest such reductions in nine and five years, respectively.

West Milford among the worst?

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 82 Comments

From the Record:

Popular magazine ranks West Milford among state’s worst places to live

According to a prominent monthly magazine, West Milford Township is among the worst places in the state to live.

West Milford Mayor Bettina Bieri is not a believer, however, calling the 80.4-square-mile expanse simply “wonderful.”

“It really all depends on your priorities,” said Bieri, now in her eighth year as mayor. “Many people prefer our scenic surroundings, wildlife, and tranquility over shopping malls and traffic congestion. They exhale and have instant stress relief upon entering West Milford.”

Scenic, soothing isolation was, however, not one of the criteria New Jersey Monthly considered in the recent iteration of its biennial “Best Places to Live” list.

Ultimately, West Milford is the lowest rated town in Passaic County for 2015. Neighboring Ringwood and Vernon are more than 100 positions ahead on the list. West Milford was also out-ranked by towns like East Orange (486), Paterson (491), and Camden (488), where the violent crime rate is respectively six, 10, and 25 times that of West Milford, according to the report.

The ranking also considered proximity to acute-care hospitals and performing-arts theaters. As far as providing more of those, however, Councilwoman Michele Dale said the township is encumbered by the Highlands Act and consequently unable to provide residents with the things towns like Madison (8), Pequannock (4), and Florham Park (1) have.

Like Dale, 44-year resident and West Milford Township Environmental Commission Chairman Stephen Sangle said the natural splendor of the town – “encompassing lakes, mountains, and vistas” – protected by the development-stifling Highlands Act cannot be compared to any other area in New Jersey. He said West Milford has alternate value as a wooded oasis protected from the sprawl that consumed other towns. Deer, fox, and bear sightings are common, as are glimpses of hikers, cyclists, and fisherman.

As for the high taxes, Dale said the current governing body is doing its upmost to streamline local government operations and reduce the taxpayer burden. She said progress has been made and the governing body continues to work hard to reduce operational expenses while maintaining municipal services. However, there are something things that the local government just cannot control – namely state, county, and school board edits, she added.

Manufacturing not dead in NJ

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 81 Comments


Report offers optimistic take on N.J.’s manufacturing industry

Contrary to public opinion and personal anecdotes regarding the New Jersey manufacturing hub of yesteryear, the manufacturing industry continues to play a vital role on the state’s economy, according to a report by the New Jersey Policy Research Organization Foundation, an affiliate of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

Just in time for New Jersey Manufacturing Week, which runs from Monday through Friday, NJPRO Chairman John Rogers stated: “Manufacturing continues to be a strong economic force, providing well-paying jobs and driving exports of American-made goods. What’s more, the health of New Jersey’s manufacturing sector fares pretty well when compared to that of other states’.”

The report offers a close examination of the manufacturing industry of New Jersey in 2015, including the number of manufacturing facilities as broken down by county, a 10-year outlook for manufacturing employment and a breakdown of manufacturers by business type.

According to the report, New Jersey manufacturers directly employed 247,200 individuals as of July 2015.

“The industry has consistently played a vital role in the state’s economy and has further solidified New Jersey’s position as a global hub for manufacturing,” the report states. “It is important to note that when comparing states, one must consider their sizable differences — e.g., economy, square mileage and population — to accurately gauge how well their industries are performing. Considering these factors, New Jersey still outperforms the majority of states and fares well against its competition.”

Even the employee compensation in New Jersey is superlative: According to the report, advanced manufacturing employees make on average nearly $100,000 per year, which ranks New Jersey as the fifth-best state for compensation.

With the report finding that New Jersey ranked 15th in manufacturing output, making $45 billion in products in 2013, and 13th in goods exported, by selling more than $32 billion in 2014, she added:

“New Jersey manufacturers excel through efficiency and expertise. Technological advances, ‘lean’ manufacturing processes and increasingly sophisticated operations are all areas where New Jersey manufacturers as a group excel.”

HuffPo stands up for Jersey

Posted in Humor | 107 Comments

From the Huffington Post:

Strange Yet Interesting Facts About New Jersey

New Jersey gets a bad rap. Sometimes referred to as “the armpit of America” by residents of other states, the peninsula is actually a pretty unique place that has a lot of good qualities. Unfortunately, people often form their opinions and judgment on the state, not for its major contributions and offerings to America — such as being the first state to sign the Bill of Rights, or being the diner capital of the world (hey, breakfast is important )- -but for the fist-pumping monstrosity that was the MTV “reality show” Jersey Shore.

As with anywhere else in the world, it has pros and cons. There are a lot of interesting facts about the state of New Jersey, and while they may not be reason enough to up and move there, they are, at the very least, interesting — even if some are quite strange (like the fact that it’s illegal to plant trees in the middle of the street in Blairstown. You know, just in case that’s something you wanted to do).

It is/was home to many of America’s biggest icons and legends. Imagine how much more credible the state would probably seem if people knew that people such as Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Jack Nicholson and Whitney Houston were born in New Jersey, rather than assuming “Snooki” and “The Situation” are the biggest celebrity natives.

And home to many other people — record-setting amounts, in fact. With a population of nearly nine million people, New Jersey has the highest percentage of population density in the United States — with 13x the amount of people living per square mile than the national average, and is the only state in the country to categorize all its counties (21) as metropolitan areas.

New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in America to live. Contrary to popular belief, people actually do choose to move here, and they don’t do so for the cheap real estate. Not only is New Jersey one of the pricier states to live in, with average rent being approximately $1,800 a month, it also has the most expensive auto insurance. But choosing one of the few insurance companies they offer isn’t something you should skip out on. Especially when you consider the fact that…

It is one of the top states for car theft. Among the most common cars to steal are Honda Accords and Civics, Toyota Camry’s and Nissan Altimas. Also, most cars are stolen in Newark. But owning a car in Jersey isn’t all bad, considering…

You never have to pump your own gas, since it is one of only two states in the country where self-service gas stations are permitted. (The other state is Oregon.)

Tourism is the second largest industry in the state. Trying to catch a glimpse of the Jersey Shore cast isn’t the only thing that draws tourists here, either. It is the home of Atlantic City, which has the longest boardwalk, as well as the tallest water tower, in the world. From beaches to cityscapes, it also offers amazing and scenic views, including 127 miles of coastline running along the Atlantic Ocean, and 790,000 acres of farmland.

There are a lot of shopping malls. And you don’t have to travel very far between them. With 7 major shopping centers located within a 25-square mile radius, New Jersey holds the nation’s record for most shopping malls located in one area.

Personal Income Increasing in NJ

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 187 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

Personal income in N.J. grew in second quarter of 2015

Personal incomes in New Jersey grew at a slightly faster pace than the nation in the second quarter of 2015 but lagged behind one of its neighbors, according to federal data released on Wednesday.

New Jersey posted a 1 percent gain in personal incomes in April, May and June, pushing the state’s total up to nearly $531.8 billion, the data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows. The U.S. overall notched a 0.9 percent gain in personal incomes during those three months, while incomes climbed by 0.7 percent in Pennsylvania and 1.3 percent in New York.

New Jersey’s growth in personal income ranked 17th in the nation. Washington posted the most growth in personal income in the second quarter, climbing 1.5 percent, the data shows.

While earnings declined in five states in the most recent quarter, the data shows New Jersey posted a 0.8 percent increase. The industries that led that growth in the state include utilities and management of companies. The biggest declines in earnings in the second quarter were in the real estate and mining industries.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis also on Wednesday released revised data that showed New Jersey posted bigger gains in personal income last year than previously reported. Personal incomes climbed by 4.7 percent in 2014 in New Jersey, according to the revised data, compared to 4 percent growth in New York and 3.6 percent growth in Pennsylvania.

Personal incomes grew by 4.4 percent overall in the U.S. last year.

Cash sales drop, NJ among top

Posted in Demographics, Housing Recovery | 140 Comments

From HousingWire:

CoreLogic: Cash sales in June drop to 31%

Cash sales made up 31.3% of total home sales in June 2015, down from 33.9% in June 2014, according to the latest report from CoreLogic (CLGX).

The year-over-year share has fallen each month since January 2013. Month over month, the cash sales share fell by 0.7 percentage points in June 2015 compared with May 2015.

The cash sales share peaked in January 2011 when cash transactions made up 46.5% of total home sales nationally. Prior to the housing crisis, the cash sales share of total home sales averaged approximately 25%. If the cash sales share continues to fall at the same rate it did in June 2015, the share should hit 25% by mid-2017.

June’s drop follows a bigger drop in May. Cash sales made up 31.9% of total home sales in May 2015, down from 35.1% in May 2014, according to CoreLogic.

Real estate-owned sales had the largest cash sales share in June 2015 at 57% and was the only sales category to see a year-over-year increase in the cash sales share. Resales had the next highest cash sales share at 30.8%, followed by short sales (28.7%) and newly constructed homes (15.6%).

New York had the largest share of any state at 47%, followed by Florida (45.8%), Alabama (44.8%), New Jersey (40.7%) and Oklahoma (39.6%).

Pending Home Sales dip – Sign of something more to come?

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 94 Comments

From CNBC:

Pending home sales fell 1.4% in August

Rising home prices and a tight supply of homes for sale are keeping buyers at bay.

A monthly index measuring signed contracts to buy existing homes, so-called pending home sales, fell 1.4 percent in August compared to July, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Expectations had been for a slight increase.

While sales are still 6.1 percent higher than one year ago, the annual gains are shrinking.

“Pending sales have leveled off since mid-summer, with buyers being bounded by rising prices and few available and affordable properties within their budget,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR. “Even with existing-housing supply barely budging all summer and no relief coming from new construction, contract activity is still higher than earlier this year and a year ago.”
Home prices in July were 5.3 percent higher than July of 2014 and are now just 5.5 percent below their peak from June of 2006, according to a new report from Black Knight Financial Services. After rising through most of the spring, mortgage rates came down slightly in August, but not enough to entice more buyers into the competitive market. The potential for higher rates is just one of several concerns Realtors now cite.

Regionally, pending home sales in the Northeast fell 5.6 percent for the month but are 8.9 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest sales fell 0.4 percent monthly and are up 6.5 percent from a year ago. In the South sales 2.2 percent monthly and are 4.1 percent above last August. In the West sales rose 1.8 percent monthly and are 7.6 percent higher than one year ago.

No Quick Recovery for Jersey

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate, Shore Real Estate | 62 Comments

From the APP:

Jersey Shore home prices: Rising, but how far?

Looking to buy or sell a home? Nearly 10 years after the market in Monmouth and Ocean counties hit its peak, residential real estate has shown encouraging signs of life, but nothing like the wild climbs that once led to the housing bubble of the last decade.

Housing prices in New Jersey have increased since 2011, a few years after the housing bubble burst, but momentum is expected to slow in the next year, said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick.

Currently, in New Jersey “prices are still about 20 percent below where they were” since their peak in 2006, O’Keefe said.

Nationally, prices are only 2.4 percent lower than what they were in 2006, according to O’Keefe.

One reason prices have been slow to recover here, is that “prices in New Jersey, relatively speaking, had run up much faster and further than what was true nationally during the housing boom,” O’Keefe said.

The median sales price of existing single-family homes for the Edison area, which includes Monmouth and Ocean County, in the second quarter of 2015 is $323,000, according to the National Association of Realtors.

That is up 4.5 percent compared with the second quarter of 2014.

Despite the rising costs, July has seen the most sales of existing homes since the housing recession began, O’Keefe said. However, the prices of homes is expected to stagnate, he said.

“(Analysts) expect prices will rise in 2016, but not rise faster than the rate of inflation,” he said. “In other words, there won’t be real gain in prices.”

Contributing factors to the plateau of home prices include the expectation that the government will raise interest rates, and that would-be sellers are hesitant to put their homes on the market, waiting for prices to climb further, O’Keefe said.

“One of the things that has bedeviled housing recovery nationally, but even more pronounced in New Jersey, is potential home sellers have been unwilling to list their homes because of the degree to which they would have to take a discounted price,” O’Keefe said.

Tallest, but only for a moment

Posted in New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 62 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

Jersey City tower becomes tallest residential building in N.J.

A new Jersey City tower is the tallest residential building in New Jersey—for now.

At 713 feet high and 69 stories, Urban Ready Life (URL) Harborside 1 towers above nearby Trump Plaza and the Merrill Lynch building. City officials, construction workers and the project’s developers celebrated the building’s superlative on Thursday with a flag-raising ceremony. But if other developers get their way, URL’s status as the tallest residential building will be short-lived. A 950-foot residential building is planned for 99 Hudson Street. Journal Squared, which began construction last year, is also poised to become one of the state’s tallest residential buildings.

Developers Ironstate and Mack-Cali touted the tower’s height and said that the project will be a landmark in the city. The threat of being usurped as the tallest residential building doesn’t lessen URL’s impact on the city’s skyline, representatives said.

“We think URL is to residential towers what the Chrysler Building is N.Y.,” Michael DeMarco, president of Mack-Cali, said in a statement. “The Chrysler held the title for tallest building for a short time before the Empire State was built. What was important was how the Chrysler changed how skyscrapers were viewed forever.”

David Barry, president of Ironstate, said the building will be a “timeless milestone in the trajectory of Jersey City.”

“I think it’s symbolic of Jersey City’s vibrancy, its growth and its importance in this state,” he told the crowd on Thursday.

The $330 million development is the first phase of three planned towers, which will consist of 2,358 residences. The first tower will have 763 rentals and will start leasing in the winter of 2016. Attendees on Thursday were able to take an elevator to the 57th floor—which is currently open to the outside— to check out the building’s view of Manhattan. Mayor Steve Fulop said the project will “redefine the entire Gold Coast.”

“It is remaking the entire New Jersey skyline,” Fulop told NJ Advance Media while touring the 57th floor of the building. “We couldn’t be more proud of the growth of Jersey City. The fact that residents fill these buildings up as soon as we build them speaks to the demand of Jersey City.”

The new closed market

Posted in National Real Estate, Unrest | 93 Comments

From the WSJ:

Real-Estate ‘Pocket Listings’ Go Mainstream

The 19th-century brick rowhouse on a leafy street in the capital’s upscale Dupont Circle neighborhood is the sort of property that usually would spark a bidding war in a hot real-estate market.

But when the elderly owners were ready to sell, the home didn’t appear in the local real-estate listings. There was no for-sale sign nor even an open house.

Instead, like a growing number of properties sold here and in other major cities, the home was sold as a “pocket listing.” Such properties aren’t advertised to the public but pitched mostly by word-of-mouth among tight-knit networks of agents and their clients.

Pocket listings—also known as “whisper” and “coming soon” listings—have been popular for years among celebrities and the wealthy seeking to shield their privacy. But they increasingly are used by a broader segment as the housing market heats up and inventory remains tight.

The practice has its critics. Some agents say pocket listings are anticompetitive, preventing sellers from getting full market value. Proponents say such listings are useful if homeowners are looking for a quick sale and understand it might result in a lower price.

Even in a strong property market, homes typically spend at least a week or two in a listing database, so appearing for only a day can be a telltale sign of a pocket sale. Though it isn’t required, some agents list pocket sales in the database so the selling price can be registered, helping them keep better track of the market.

Some agents note the practice can lead to problems beyond a lower sale price. Pocket listings punish buyers who lack connections and never have a chance to bid on properties. There is also the risk of discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, if a property is shown only to an agent whose clients happen to all be white.

There is also the potential for a conflict of interest when an agent finds a buyer from a colleague in the same brokerage, which then collects fees from the buyer and the seller.

State laws don’t prohibit pocket listings, but generally require that agents serve their clients’ best interests, which includes wide-scale advertising to maximize a property’s value, said June Barlow, general counsel at the California Association of Realtors. However, many states allow agents to bypass that step if they get their clients’ written consent.

The trend comes amid growing frustration over a shortage of homes up for sale. Nationally, at the current sales pace, it would take 5.2 months to eat up the supply of existing homes on the market, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s down from 5.6 months a year earlier and roughly the same level as in 2005, during the housing boom.

Zillow not the best deal for consumers?

Posted in General | 48 Comments

From MarketWatch:

Something you should know about real-estate agents on Zillow

Consumer advocates have long cautioned against dual agency in real-estate transactions. That’s when the real-estate agent advocating for the seller also represents the buyer.

Common sense dictates this scenario can be detrimental to both parties. The buyer’s agent is supposed to help his or her client get a home for the lowest price; the seller’s agent is supposed to f3tch the highest price. Advocating for both sides seems impossible, yet some consumers still end up in that scenario.

A high percentage of those agents advertising on Zillow enjoyed more dual-agency transactions as a result, according to a recent report from Morgan Stanley. Specifically, it found that 60% of those real-estate agents who advertised as a “premier agent” on Zillow received a 30% increase in these dual-side deals. Financially, that means a big payday for the agent, who doesn’t have to split the commission with someone else — effectively doubling his or her pay.

Zillow representatives point out that users see information for the listing agent and three other agents when they search for homes, and can look at customer reviews of agents on the site as well. “We believe that access to information creates a more efficient and ethical real-estate marketplace,” the company noted in a statement, in response to questions about the Morgan Stanley report.

But the fact that there is so much information on Zillow — including information on home prices and community features — actually can work to confuse consumers, said Chris Whitehead, president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. They perceive it as a site for information, but fail to realize it’s mainly a place where agents try and collect clients, he added.

“Zillow, to the consumer, is a resource, but all it is is a lead-generation site for real-estate agents,” he said. “The real-estate industry has become an industry of transactions, not people. That’s what all the advertising out there is built toward — getting another transaction,” Whitehead said.

Snippy maybe, perhaps Snooty, but never, ever, Snobby…

Posted in Humor, New Jersey Real Estate | 117 Comments

From the APP:

Snobsville: Where are the snobbiest places in New Jersey?

Here’s the Top 30:

1. Princeton
2. Chatham
3. Mendham
4. Edgewater
5. Glen Ridge
6. Bernardsville
7. Westfield
8. Hoboken
9. Summit
10. Oradell
11. Ridgewood
12. Manasquan
13. Watchung
14. Glen Rock
15. Morris Plains
16. Mountainside
17. Haddonfield
18. Boonton
19. Florham Park
20. Franklin Lakes
21. Englewood Cliffs
22. Allendale
23. Closter
24. Madison
25. Fair Haven
26. Park Ridge
27. Little Silver
28. Montvale
29. Norwood
30. Upper Saddle River

Existing home sales fall, nobody cares

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 62 Comments

From the WSJ:

U.S. Existing Home Sales Fall

Rising home prices are starting to catch up with buyers and may be leading some to put off buying for a little longer.

Existing home sales tumbled 4.8% in August to a 5.31 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the National Association of Realtors said Monday, the steepest month-to-month decline since January, when they fell 4.9%. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected August sales would drop 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.53 million.

Behind the decline were particularly big drops in the West and the South, two areas where prices have risen particularly sharply. In the South, where the median home price is up 6% over a year ago, month-to-month sales fell 6.6%. And in the West, where the median price rose 7.1% over the year, sales were down 7.8%.

Nationwide, the median home price hit $228,700 in August, a 4.7% increase over a year ago.

Analysts said they weren’t particularly troubled by the monthly decline, noting that year-over-year sales were up a robust 6.2%.

“Even with the decline, I believe we are comfortably set for the best home sales year in eight years,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR.

J.P. Morgan economist Daniel Silver said he maintained “a relatively upbeat view on the housing market,” based on low inventory levels and a decrease in foreclosure sales.

“The August lull in existing home sales should prove short-lived because the fundamentals for housing remain highly supportive,” wrote Deutsche Bank economists Joseph LaVorgna, Brett Ryan and Aditya Bhave.

Gregory Daco, head of U.S. macroeconomics at Oxford Economics dismissed the August number as a “hiccup” in a note to clients.

“Rising employment, slowly accelerating wage growth, rising housing demand, slowing home price inflation and mortgage rates at historical lows will underpin greater housing demand and in turn sales through the remainder of the year and into 2016,” he wrote.

Can someone please school Yellen?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery | 76 Comments

From Bloomberg:

Janet Yellen Sees a ‘Very Depressed’ Housing Market

While Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen heaped praise on the U.S. labor market in her press conference on Thursday, the housing market got little love.

Residential real estate “remains very depressed,” she told reporters after announcing at the end of a two-day meeting that policy makers had decided against raising the benchmark interest rate. “Demand for housing should be there and should materialize as the job market improves and income growth improves.”

So what counts as a “very depressed” level of housing? Yellen cited housing starts that are “below levels that seem consistent with underlying demographics, especially in an economy that’s creating jobs.” Commerce Department data earlier Thursday showed that new-home construction dropped in August after a downward revision to the previous month, representing a pause in a general upward trend.

The Fed chief noted that while it’s “a very small sector of the economy,” housing “plays a supporting role” to bigger drivers such as consumer and business spending. The central bankers “recognize that the housing market is sensitive to mortgage rates” and that an increase in the federal funds rate will eventually impact consumer borrowing costs. Right now, the average 30-year fixed rate is still lingering close to all-time lows.

Underwater owners down 50% from peak

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 19 Comments

From the NYT:

Fewer Underwater Mortgage Holders

The share of underwater mortgage holders — those who owe more than their homes are worth — has dropped by more than half since peaking in early 2012, according to new data from Zillow.

The decline was driven by rising home values at the lower end of the market, a turnaround from last year. Condominiums were the exception, as their values continued to lag nationwide.

As of the second quarter of 2015, Zillow’s data, which was released earlier this month, showed that 14.4 percent of homeowners with a mortgage had negative equity, compared with 31.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the peak.

While the current rate is still a long way from the historically normal negative equity level of around 2 percent, it is markedly lower than the nearly 17 percent rate at the end of last year. The negative equity rate did not budge in the second half of 2014, after dropping steadily for 10 consecutive quarters, because of declining values of lower-priced homes. Another Zillow report released in March had identified 21 major housing markets in which values for the bottom 10 percent of homes were falling, rather than rising. Since then, continued demand for affordable homes coupled with low inventory has helped increase values in the bottom third of homes, lifting more homeowners out of negative territory, said Svenja Gudell, the chief economist of Zillow.

Among the largest 35 metropolitan areas, the highest levels of negative equity were in Las Vegas (25 percent), Chicago (22 percent) and Atlanta (21 percent). New York fell just below the national average, with an overall rate of 12 percent. As in many markets, however, a wide gap separated the negative equity rates at the upper and lower ends of the New York market. About 23 percent of homeowners in the bottom third of homes (by value) were underwater, compared with just 5 percent in the top third, Ms. Gudell said.

The metro-area markets with the highest levels of negative equity for condominiums were Las Vegas (37 percent), Chicago (33 percent) and Orlando (30 percent). The New York metropolitan area (which includes the city, Long Island, northern New Jersey and Westchester) was well below the national average, with 13 percent of condo and co-op owners underwater.