The number of mortgaged homes with negative equity fell slightly in the first quarter to 11.2 million units, according to figures compiled by CoreLogic

CoreLogic said almost one-quarter (24%) of U.S. homes are "under water" while 28% have negative equity or a related category called "near-negative" equity. (Roughly 2.3 million borrowers have less than 5% equity.)

In 4Q10, 11.3 million homes had negative equity. Basing its research on a database of 47 million loans, the company noted that underwater mortgages are concentrated in just five states: Nevada (where 71% of mortgaged homes have negative equity); Arizona (51%); Florida (48%); Michigan (39%); and California (34%).

"The aggregate dollar value of negative equity for these deeply underwater borrowers was $656 billion," the Santa Ana-based company said.

CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming noted that negative equity and unemployment have stabilized over the past six months, which bodes well for future increases in home values.

"As house prices grow again and borrowers pay down their mortgage debt, negative equity levels will begin to diminish," he said. "The typical underwater borrower will likely regain their lost equity over the next 5-7 years," Fleming said.

First quarter figures from CoreLogic show that borrowers with second liens or home equity lines of credit are twice as likely to be underwater than borrowers with only a first mortgage — and twice as likely to end up in foreclosure.

"The foreclosure rate for borrowers with junior liens was 4% compared to 2% for borrowers without junior liens," the report said.

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