By Bob Ivry
Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Almost one-third of U.S. homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to Zillow.com, an Internet provider of home valuations.
Second-quarter home prices fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier, giving 29 percent of owners negative equity, said Zillow, the Seattle-based service that offers values for more than 80 million homes. For those who bought at the 2006 peak of the housing market, 45 percent are now underwater, Zillow said.
Negative equity and declining prices are making it difficult for homeowners to sell property for a profit. Almost one-quarter of U.S. homes sold in the past year were for a loss, Zillow said. That contributes to the foreclosure rate because some homeowners can't absorb the loss and end up surrendering their homes to the bank that holds the mortgage, said Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president of data and analytics.
``For homeowners who need to sell, this is a gravely serious situation,'' Humphries said in an interview. ``It can also be harmful to communities where the number of unsold homes adds more to inventory and puts downward pressure on prices.''