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Underwater mortgages falling in the midstate

The number of Central Pennsylvanians who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth continues to fall, according to California-based ATTOM Data Solutions.

In the Harrisburg-Carlisle area, 8.9 percent of properties with a mortgage were “seriously underwater” in the fourth quarter of 2016, down from about 10.1 percent a year earlier.

In Lancaster County, underwater properties accounted for 7.9 percent of all mortgaged properties, down from about 9.3 percent over the year.

Seriously underwater is a term used when the combined loan amount secured by the property is at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value.


Metro-level data for York-Hanover and Lebanon County was not available.

Pennsylvania finished 2016 at 9.8 percent, down from 10.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

By comparison, the U.S. saw a decline to 9.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 11.5 percent at the end of 2015, according to ATTOM. There were 5.4 million underwater properties nationwide at the end of 2016.

In the second quarter of 2012, the year ATTOM began tracking underwater mortgages, the number hit a peak at 12.8 million. That was nearly 29 percent of U.S. properties with a mortgage. Locally, underwater mortgages peaked around 14 percent, according to ATTOM.

“Since home prices bottomed out nationwide in the first quarter of 2012, the number of seriously underwater U.S. homeowners has decreased by about 7.1 million, an average decrease of about 1.4 million each year,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM.

The massive loss of home equity during the housing crisis forced many homeowners to stay in their homes longer before selling, he said, which impacted the move-up market. 

“Between 2000 and 2008, our data shows the average homeownership tenure nationwide was 4.26 years, but that average tenure has been trending steadily higher since 2009, reaching a new record high of 7.88 years for homeowners who sold in 2016,” Blomquist said.

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