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Ten percent of U.S. homeowners still ‘underwater’

The number of homeowners underwater on their mortgage-owing more than their home is currently worth-continues to drop, but a few metros are still facing a disproportionate number of struggling owners.

Nationwide, 10.6 percent-or 5.3 million-of all mortgage holders remain underwater. Still, that marks a big improvement from early 2011 when a third of all mortgage holders were underwater, according to data from Lender Processing Services.

The following metros are seeing the largest number of underwater homeowners:

  • Rockford, Ill.: 32.3 percent
  • Atlanta: 29.4 percent
  • Las Vegas: 27.3 percent
  • Orlando: 26.6 percent

Rockford, Ill., which has the highest number of underwater owners in the country, faces a big foreclosure problem. The city – which once attracted Chicago residents with its lower housing prices – now has about 5,400 vacant housing units, 2,000 of which are abandoned or boarded up. Unemployment in the area also is 11.4 percent-down from 15.7 percent in July 2009 but way above the 7.3 percent national rate.

While new construction in the area has basically come to a halt, the area’s home prices are starting to edge upward, mostly driven by investors who are buying homes for cash and renting them out.

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