"Underwater Mortgages" Increase, But Houston Home Sales Still Above Water

The number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth rose at the end of last year, according to a report from CoreLogic. But like in other measurements of the health of the housing industry, Houston maintains somewhat better statistics. Ed Mayberry reports.

So-called "underwater mortgages" prevent people from selling their homes in an already weak housing market. The CoreLogic report says about 11.1 million households, or 23.1 percent of all mortgaged homes, were underwater in the October to December quarter. But Houston's housing market has fared better in most categories than other cities. Danny Frank is with the Houston Association of Realtors.

"National Association of Realtors says six-and-a-half months of inventory is a neutral market, so anything under six-and-a-half months of inventory means it's a seller's market. We were back to pre-Ike conditions in December. So that means the month's supply of inventory is dwindling, but the supply is getting shorter. So therefore, the supply and demand economics is working. You have less houses for sale — the prices are starting to climb."

Frank says the diversification of Houston's job market has insulated it from some of the problems faced by other cities. But statistics differ when you look at various parts of the city.

"That housing market there up around Luetta Road was on fire when Compaq was in it's heyday. And when HP came in and closed the campus down and did all that stuff, it devastated that market. You have NASA down here — if the administration chooses to close that, that could be devastating to this area. You know, there's different pockets, but as a whole, the market is diversified."

Things got off to a healthy start this year in Houston, which recorded its first increase in property sales since June 2010.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...