High percentage of Space Coast homeowners underwater with mortgages



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Even as the housing market continues to rebound new numbers are showing parts of central Florida are lagging behind the rest of the country.
According to a housing data service, Florida ranks second in the nation for the number of homes that are "underwater," meaning the owner owes more than the property is worth. Nearly one-third of all homes in Florida are considered seriously underwater.
Channel 9's Melonie Holt learned that the Space Coast might be one of the areas hit hardest.
Local real estate agents told Holt that it's difficult to know just how many residents are underwater because it's not just a matter of where residents bought their homes, but when.
Paul Fiquet bought his Palm Bay home in 2005, right around the height of central Florida's real estate market boom. Now, he's underwater.
"If I were to sell today I wouldn't come close to what I paid in '05," said Fiquet.
According to Realty Trac, a leading source for housing data, Fiquet has plenty of company, particularly on Florida's Space Coast, where an estimated 35 percent of residents are underwater with their mortgages.
The Palm Bay, Melbourne, and Titusville areas were particularly hard hit.
"There was a large number of homes in Palm Bay, some areas of Viera didn't get hit as bad, Merritt Island got hit pretty bad because the canal properties went down," said Mitch Ribak of Tropical Realty of Suntree.
Ribak is the president of the Space Coast Association of Realtors. He told Holt that part of the issue in Florida was the number of investment properties that owners simply walked away from when the market dropped.  Year to year, local Realtors have seen a 10-12 percent appreciation in combined condo and single home values.
"Compared to a few years ago, this is very good," said Ribak.
But it still leaves some homeowners property values far from where they started.
"As long as it keeps going up I guess it's going in the right direction," said Fiquet.
Realtors told Holt that if homes are priced correctly they are selling quickly, sometimes in a matter of days.