The percentage of Winston-Salem-area homeowners seriously underwater on their mortgage payments was at 8.4% during the third quarter, national real-estate research company Attom Data Solutions reported.

The five-county region of Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Stokes and Yadkin had 10,763 residences in that category, Attom said in a report timed for release today.

A mortgage is underwater when a homeowner owes more than the home is worth.

Attom defines seriously underwater as owing at least 25% more on a mortgage than the property’s value.

The Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area had 17.8% of area homeowners, or 22,974, in the equity-rich stage toward paying off their mortgage. Attom defines equity-rich as a mortgage with a loan-to-home value of 50 percent or lower.

Attom said it has adjusted its methodology since the previous home equity and underwater report, and there is no historical data to offer as a comparison.

The Greensboro-High Point metropolitan statistical area of Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties had 11,201 housing units listed as seriously underwater, or 8.2%.

Attom found that 22,114 households in the Greensboro-High Point MSA were considered equity-rich, or 16.3%. The rate was 15.9% a year ago.

“The latest numbers reveal another profound impact of the extended housing boom, as far more homeowners find themselves on the right side of the balance sheet instead of the wrong side,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with Attom.

“This is a complete turnabout from what was happening when the housing market crashed during the Great Recession.”

Teta said that as “home values keep climbing, homeowners are seeing their equity building more and more, while those with properties still worth a lot less than their mortgages represent just a small segment of the market.”

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.

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rcraver@wsjournal.com

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