One-In-Five Homeowners Feel “Underwater” On Mortgages

  • February 19, 2009

President Obama recently announced a foreclosure prevention plan that includes some provisions to help homeowners who are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are now worth. The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that 20% of all homeowners—or 30% of mortgage holders—say that if they had to sell their home right now it would sell for less than they owe. And those who feel underwater on their mortgages report considerably more financial strain that those who do not.

The survey, conducted Feb. 4-8 among 1,303 adults on cell phones and landlines, finds that mortgage holders who feel they are underwater are generally younger, less affluent and more likely to be Hispanic or African American than are those who feel they would at least break even if they had to sell today.

Roughly six-in ten (61%) of those who say they are underwater on their mortgage are white, 12% are black and 18% are Hispanic. By comparison, 84% of mortgage holders who say their home would sell for at least the value of their mortgage are white, 6% are black and 6% are Hispanic.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of those who owe more than the current value of their home are under 30 years old, compared with just 10% of those who think they would at least break even if they had to sell today. Those who feel that they are underwater on their mortgage are also much more likely to have children under 18 living in the home than are mortgage holders who don't feel that way (64% compared with 47%). Those who say their home is paid for tend to be older: 43% are 65 or older and 33% are ages 50 to 64. Consequently, relatively few (19%) say they have children younger than 18.

Read the full report One-In-Five Homeowners Feel “Underwater” On Mortgages on the Pew Research Center's Web site.