- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Several St. Louis-area ZIP code areas rank among the nation’s worst for “underwater” mortgages, according to a new study, and the problem is especially bad in north St. Louis County.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/QmhzJz ) reports that half or more of homeowners with mortgages who owe more than their homes are worth are in 11 ZIP codes in St. Louis County, including the towns of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Spanish Lake, Berkeley and Jennings. The study by the Haas Institute in Berkeley, California, finds that the same also is true in three ZIP codes in the city of St. Louis.

Those who owe more than their homes are worth face big obstacles in selling their homes. They are roughly twice as likely as others to default on their mortgages, leading to foreclosure.

Eric Repke bought a home near Hazelwood Central High School for $146,000 in 2006. He still owes $110,000. He recently took a job in St. Charles County and moved the family to be closer to his work. He put the home on the market in March.

“The highest offer we got was for $70,000,” Repke said. Now paying for two homes, he’s hoping to persuade Bank of America to accept less than it is owed on the Hazelwood property - a so-called short sale.

The Haas Institute used estimates on underwater homeowners and home values from Zillow, the real estate website.

Zillow reports 24 percent of homes with mortgages in the St. Louis area were underwater as of December. CoreLogic, a private real estate data firm, estimates it’s at 12 percent. Based on Zillow figures, the St. Louis area ranked 13th in underwater mortgages among all metro areas with more than 1 million people.

Prices in the metro area are still 15 percent below their 2007 peak, according to Zillow.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com