Which Way Home?

America Underwater: The mortgage crisis in data

Marketplace Contributor Feb 8, 2013

UPDATE: More than a year ago, Marketplace Money and The New York Times teamed up to tell the story of home ownership in America three years after the housing bubble burst. In a special report called “Which Way Home,” we share the stories of the people who own homes, want homes, and have lost homes during this turbulent period.

While our reporting teams were hard at work finding, recording, and telling the stories that appeared in The Times (now online at NYTimes.com), and on the public radio airwaves on Marketplace Money, we on the digital team went in search of data to tell the story.

We put to work former Marketplace intern Ryan Faughnder, a USC journalism graduate student who has compiled the data for a number of our Marketplace Maps. What he put together for us this time stark. It revealed a nation underwater. This week, we’ve updated the map with the latest data to reveal that while the housing situation is improving across the U.S., pockets of the country like Nevada, Florida, and California still suffer from a high percentage of underwater homes.


In Nevada, for instance, 57 percent of homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth. The data comes from research and analytics firm Corelogic, which produces a quarterly negative equity report that reveals just how many borrowers are underwater.

The second data set we included comes from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgages by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FHFA tracks a data point called the House Price Index. That calculation of housing purchase prices and appraisal data measures changes in home values over time. It’s the same data that the St. Louis Fed uses when graphing out the housing bubbles for each state.

When you line up home price data with the number of underwater mortgages, you can see why so many borrowers are in trouble. Housing prices have fallen far from their peaks in many states. There goes your equity.

Finally, we looked at a report that shows the worst of it; those homeowners falling behind in mortgage payments or those who just gave up and walked away. RealtyTrac’s foreclosure report counts the number of homes that received a foreclosure filing of some kind during the quarter. RealtyTrac explains it like this on its website: “If the number is 100, you could say that one in every 100 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter.”

Here are a few notable ones: In California, 1 out of 43 housing units received foreclosure filings down from 1 in 88 reported a year ago. In Nevada, it was 1 out of 37 housing units down from 1 in 44.

Want to see how your state stacks up? All of this data is easily explored and sortable in our latest Marketplace Map: America Underwater.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.