Fewer homes ‘underwater’ in metro area

The number of seriously “underwater” properties – in which owners owe at least 25 percent more than the home is worth – is declining in the U.S. and in most parts of metro Augusta, according to a recently released report.


Some pockets of the region still exceed the state and national average, however.

New data from Irvine, Calif.-based ATTOM Data Solutions shows nearly 1 in 10 U.S. homes – 9.7 percent – was seriously underwater during the first quarter of 2017, a 1.2 million decrease from the same period in 2016.

In the seven-county Augusta-Aiken metro area, three counties – Richmond, Burke and Edgefield – exceeded the U.S. average. Three others – Columbia, Aiken and McDuffie – were below the national average. Data for one county, Lincoln, were not available.

Averaged out, the metro area’s percentage of underwater properties is only 0.2 percent higher than the U.S. average.

Barry Davis of SunTrust Mortgage, who also is president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia’s Augusta chapter, said the local real estate market is relatively healthy because it didn’t experience the market distortions seen in other parts of the country during the housing bubble.

“We were pretty insulated from a lot of that,” he said.

ATTOM Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist said in a statement issued with the report that underwater homes remain “stubbornly high” in specific regions of the country.

“For example, we continue to see one in five properties seriously underwater in several Rust Belt cities along with Las Vegas and central Florida,” he said. “Additionally, close to one-third of homes valued below $100,000 are still seriously underwater.”

Davis said homes in the Augusta market have appreciated in value 3.5 percent each year during the past two years because of brisk sales and an influx of new residents taking cybersecurity-related jobs in and around Fort Gordon.

The Greater Augusta Association of Realtors reported last month that home sales in March were 27 percent higher than they were during the same month five years ago.

“It is steady growth we’re seeing,” Davis said.

On the flip side, the percentage of properties considered “equity rich” – in which the homeowners’ loan-to-value ratio is 50 percent or less – was greatest in Burke County, where 23 percent of owners had high equity, followed by Aiken and Edgefield counties, with 20 percent. McDuffie County had 15 percent, Richmond County 14 percent and Columbia County had the lowest percentage of equity-rich owners, 13 percent.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.

‘Seriously underwater’ homes

The percentage of homeowners owing 125 percent or more of their home’s value in the metro area is as follows:


Region Population Housing units Quarter 4 2013 Quarter 1 2017
Richmond 201,291 86,939 21% 16%
Aiken 163,908 73,649 11% 9%
Columbia 136,204 52,267 10% 5%
Edgefield 26,466 10,608 14% 18%
Burke 23,007 9,832 9% 11%
McDuffie 21,582 9,271 4% 8%
Lincoln 7,720 4,788 —%
Georgia —- —- 22.6% 11.6%
South Carolina —- —- 14.4% 9.6%
U.S. —- —- 18.8 9.7

Source ATTOM Data Solutions