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Number of underwater Minnesota homes below national average

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The technical name for it is 'negative equity,' but the commonplace term for it among homeowners is 'underwater' or 'upside-down.' It's the troubling phenomenon that emerged in the post-housing-bubble era of the recession that means a homeowner's debt exceeds the value of the property by 25 percent or more. Essentially, the term means that homeowners owed more on their mortgaged property than that property was worth.

The Star Tribune reports that one in ten Minnesota homes are underwater, citing the U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report for the first quarter of 2014 from website RealtyTrac.

Here's RealtyTrac's trend map for Minnesota.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch took a look at the national figures, which show that 17 percent of homes are seriously underwater. That number is down from 26 percent a year ago. The paper said that first-quarter negative equity numbers are at the lowest level since RealtyTrac began reporting those figures in the first quarter of 2012.

“Rapidly rising home prices over the last year have helped lift houses out of negative equity,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Rising equity gives them an automatic escape hatch (they can sell their houses and avoid foreclosures) or they can potentially refinance into more affordable mortgages.”

The Star Tribune's story adds that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is in the nation's top five cities for top foreclosure equity. CNN reported that other metro areas where more than half of the foreclosures actually have positive equity include Denver, Boston, Houston and Washington, D.C.The story said that Detroit and the Tampa-St. Petersburg markets have the highest percentage of homes still buried in the equity hole.

In a report earlier this year, The Economist reported that nearly 11 million American homes are underwater despite the housing recovery. It's particularly troublesome in some parts of the country. According to lobbying group New Jersey Community United, nearly one in four homes in that state is worth less than the mortgage.

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