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The number of underwater mortgage holders in the Portland area fell nearly 4 percent between July and September, according to real estate information website Zillow. The firm says 29.3 percent of Portland-area homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.


Together, those 123,000 homeowners are upside-down by more than $8 billion. The steep drop is attributable to rising home prices lifting home values back above the loan debt. In the same period, Zillow says, home prices increased 2.3 percent.


The number of underwater borrowers is difficult to figure because it involves comparing individual home values with its particular mortgage.


Zillow uses its proprietary algorithm for estimating a home's value, then compares that with public mortgage records. CoreLogic, a real estate industry analytics firm, puts the Portland share of borrowers underwater closer to 20 percent.


Underwater borrowers are at risk of foreclosure because they can't pay off their loan by selling their home.


By Elliot Njus, The Oregonian on November 15, 2012 at 6:30 AM,