The number of Wichita homes 'underwater' continue to shrink

The number of Wichita area homes that were “under water” in the fourth quarter was 4.1 percent, down slightly from a year earlier, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data firm.

There were 4,176 residential properties that were worth less than the amount remaining on their mortgage loans. That’s a slight improvement over the 4,280 homes, or 4.3 percent, in the last quarter of 2014.

An additional 1,454 properties, or 1.4 percent, were nearly under water in the fourth quarter, down from 1,739, or 1.7 percent, a year earlier.

The figure is important because when homeowners are under water they are more likely to walk away from the homes and the mortgages. Many tens of thousands of homeowners during the housing crisis simply turned their homes back over to their bank lenders.

That occurred because homeowners during the housing boom bought houses at inflated prices with little upfront cash. When home prices fell, those homeowners had less than nothing invested in their houses.