The percentage of Forsyth County homeowners underwater on their mortgages dropped in the first quarter, according to national real-estate research company Attom Data Solutions.
However, Attom officials cautioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to produce a significant uptick in homes underwater in the second quarter.
Attom said the underwater mortgage loans data can be used to help evaluate homeowners’ vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forsyth had 11,318 residences in that category. A mortgage is underwater when a homeowner owes more on the loan than the home is worth. That represented 8.7% of mortgages.
Attom defines seriously underwater as owing at least 25% more on a mortgage than the property’s value.
Meanwhile, there were 17.4% in Winston-Salem area households, or 22,663, in the equity-rich category, which means they own at least 50% of their home.
By comparison, the Greensboro-High Point MSA had 8.1%, or 11,141 residences, considered as underwater.
The three-county region also had 16.5%, or 22,590, in the equity-rich category.
“Homeowners’ balance sheets generally remained strong in the first quarter of 2020 across the U.S., with about the same levels of equity-rich or seriously underwater mortgages as in the prior quarter,” said Todd Teta, Attom’s chief product officer.
“But, as with other rosy first-quarter reports, this one needs to be taken in the context of the looming impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the potential for home values to fall, there is a significant chance that equity levels could drop over the coming months, while underwater levels rise.”
For North Carolina’s other metro areas for the underwater category, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord MSA was at 4.5%, or 22,701 households. The Raleigh-Cary MSA was as 3.4%, or 9,567 households, while the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA was 4.2%, or 3,983 households.
In the equity-rich category, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord MSA was at 21.6%, or 108,229 households. The Raleigh-Cary MSA was at 20%, or 55,634 households, while the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA was at 22.5%, or 21,370 households.
Officials with the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors have cautioned that information on underwater loans can affect the real-estate market by undermining consumer confidence, causing some hesitation in buying or trying to sell a house now, and prompting an overreaction.
Many banks and mortgage lenders have accelerated the pace of pushing unsalvageable mortgages through the foreclosure process in recent years.
Their main motivation: Provisions for potential loan losses on commercial and residential mortgages have a direct effect on banks’ bottom lines.