The bad news is that more U.S. homeowners went underwater in the third quarter.
The slightly better news is that the San Francisco market, and presumably Sonoma County, bucked that trend. reports last quarter 23.2 percent of all home mortgage holders owed their lenders more than their homes were worth. That compares with 22.5 percent in the second quarter and 21.7 percent a year ago.
Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries predicted “a long, bleak winter of continued troubles for the housing market.”
“The length and depth of the current housing recession is rivaling the Great Depression’s real estate downturn, and, with encouraging signs fading, will easily eclipse it in the coming months,” Humphries said.
“The high percentage of homeowners in negative equity continues to be troubling, in that it represents a huge number of people who are not only more vulnerable to foreclosure, but who are essentially trapped in their current homes and are prevented from selling and buying a new home,” he said. “This has profound implications for future demand and will be a millstone around the neck of the housing market.”
Las Vegas leads the nation with 80.2 percent of mortgage holders in negative equity.
Among the nation’s 25 largest communities, 68.4 percent of Phoenix borrowers are underwater, as are 64.2 percent in Orlando; Other big communities with big numbers are: Riverside, 48.1 percent; Tampa, Fla., 46.8 percent; Miami, 42 percent; and Sacramento, 39.6 percent.
In its blog item on the new data, The Wall Street Journal reported that San Francisco was a place where rising home values had helped borrowers.

‘In San Francisco, the number of underwater homes has dropped from 24.9% to 20.2%, mainly due to stabilizing home values that are pulling more people out of negative equity, says Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. The median sales price of existing single-family homes in the San Francisco metropolitan area is up about 25% since last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.’

Local real estate agents have said the experience for the Bay Area, including Sonoma County, has been similar to that of San Francisco.