Though Gwinnett County has made its way out of the depths of the housing crash, there are several homeowners showing one significant lingering symptom of the compromised real estate market – underwater mortgages.
The Gwinnett ZIP code suffering the most from this symptom is Lawrenceville’s 30044, according to a report by Zillow, a Seattle-based real estate data firm. The ZIP code has 1,863 homeowners that have mortgages with negative equity – owing more than what the home is worth, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story published last week. Snellville’s 30039 comes close to that level with 1,767 underwater mortgages.
Gwinnett underwater mortgages by the numbers:
- Lawrenceville (30044): 1,863
- Snellville (30039): 1,767
- Lawrenceville (30043): 1,539
- Lilburn (30047): 1,241
- Dacula (30019): 1,037
Gwinnett is not alone in its high rates of underwater mortgages. Nearly 37 percent of homeowners are effectively underwater, according to Zillow.
"If the balance on your mortgage exceeds the value of your home, you’re underwater,"Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Zillow, said in the report. "But even if you have some positive equity, you could still be trapped in the no-man’s land of 'effective' negative equity. These homeowners may have some equity in their home, but likely not enough to sell it and use the proceeds to comfortably afford the down payment and other costs associated with buying a new home."
Out of those homeowners that are "effectively" underwater, Zillow reports nearly 15 percent of those who are underwater in metro Atlanta owe twice as much on their mortgage as the home is worth.
These circumstances not only contribute to homeowners that feel stuck, but an ongoing problem with metro Atlanta’s real estate market – fewer homes on the market, according to Zillow.
Available homes in Gwinnett County especially under $200,000 are scant, but the issue has more to do with a bulk of rental properties in Gwinnett, said Lisa Oden, a Century 21 Results Real Estate Services real estate agent who has sold homes in Gwinnett County for nine years. She was surprised to hear that Lawrenceville's 30044 ZIP code had such a high rate of homeowners with underwater mortgages.
“How can someone still be in underwater when we’re back to 2006, 2007 pricing, which was the height of the market in Gwinnett County?” Oden asked. “Those were the highest prices you would have expected to see sold. Maybe they (homeowners) aren’t reaching out to me, but I’m not seeing a lot of underwater mortgages.”
More than any other factor, Oden said, Gwinnett's home market has been limited by the number of rental homes in the area. During the recession investors bought up hundreds of homes that had been foreclosed or sold in short sells, and many of those have not yet returned to the buying market.
"There is such a tremendous bulk of the market that are longterm rentals," she said. "People needed somewhere to live. Without them buying in bulk, it would have taken a lot longer for us to climb out of all of that. Those homes will begin coming back to the market, but just not yet."
Zillow's report does concur that the housing market market and rate of underwater mortgages overall has improved.
"Things are moving in the right direction, but some owners are still deeply underwater," Gudell said. "As we move into the home shopping season, inventory is already low, and negative equity is keeping potential additional stock from becoming available."