TAMPA — As many as 43 percent of Tampa Bay area home mortgages remain “seriously underwater,” with mortgage balances that exceed the home's value by at least 25 percent, a new report from real estate firm RealtyTrac said.
That high level gives the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area a dubious distinction, tied with Orlando for third place nationally in underwater mortgage rates.
Among other problems, it restricts the number of homes that can be listed for sale and exacerbates the region's shortage of homes on the market, said Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president.
RealtyTrac's report actually indicates a slight improvement. A year ago, for example, an estimated 46 percent of all outstanding mortgages in the Bay area had balances exceeding a home's value by at least 25 percent. However, the new 43 percent underwater figure shows that the housing market remains deeply troubled, despite median housing prices that have risen by more than 20 percent in the past year.
By comparison, an estimated 40 percent of all Florida mortgages are seriously underwater. Among metropolitan areas with at least 500,000 people, only Lakeland and Las Vegas have higher percentages of seriously underwater homeowners than Tampa and Orlando, RealtyTrac data show.
For now, many people can't list their homes for sale until prices rise more and they can build some equity again.
Blomquist said that may take at least three years for many seriously underwater homeowners. In some cases, they may be able to hold short sales — sell their homes for less than the amount owed on them. However, that requires a lender's approval and results in a negative mark on the homeowner's credit report, he said.
Pam Marron, a Hudson loan officer, said the high rate of underwater mortgages is preventing people from putting out resumes, hanging a for-sale sign in their yards and jumping at a job opportunity somewhere else.
“The effect is that it's stalling the ability of people in Florida in going forward,” Marron said.
Tribune reporter Ted Jackovics contributed to this report.