ORLANDO, Fla. - After years underwater, Orlando's housing market has surfaced and for the first time since the bubble burst, most Orlando homes are no longer worth less than homeowners owe on their mortgages.
"The size of the move we're talking about is not transformational, but I think it does point to a better path for the future,” said Sean Snaith of the University of Central Florida Institute for Economic Competitiveness.
For years, the path's been an unpleasant adventure for homeowners, with more than 50 percent of homes in the four-county Orlando metro area under water.
But real estate research firm Zillow now says that's dropped to 47.7 percent. It’s not an earthshaking change, but it’s critical for the economy, said Channel 9’s Mark Joyella.
“What's important is this has really been at the core of our lackluster recovery, consumers hamstrung in their spending by all that wealth that's been lost,” said Snaith.
Real estate agents said with more homeowners feeling more secure in their homes, more may decide to enter the housing market, which could fuel the slow, but steady central Florida recovery.
“Our inventory's been really low, and I think getting more people back into the market's going to be good for the health of the market and really good for buyers as well,” said Realtor David Welch.
Of the underwater homes in the Orlando area, 19 percent are delinquent on their mortgages. That's the second-highest delinquency rate among major housing markets in the nation. It’s second only to Miami.