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About one out of eight, or 17 percent, of homeowners with a mortgage believes their home is worth less than the amount they owe, when in fact the opposite is true. This suggests that large numbers of owners are undervaluing their homes, perhaps due to recent home price increases.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of U.S. homeowners released last week shows that 39 percent say their home is not worth more than what they still owe on their mortgages, while 47 percent report their home is worth more than what they owe. Some 14 percent are undecided.

Yet only 10.8 million, or 22.3 percent, of all residential properties with a mortgage were actually in negative equity at the end of the second quarter of 2012, according to the latest data from CoreLogic. This is down from 11.4 million properties, or 23.7 percent, at the end of the first quarter of 2012. An additional 2.3 million borrowers possessed less than 5 percent equity in their home, referred to as near-negative equity, at the end of the second quarter.

Moreover, homeowner perceptions are turning more negative at a time when home values are improving. Scott Rasmussen, CEO of the research company that bears his name, says Rasmussen Reports has asked homeowners the question about home values and mortgages for years and it has never before fallen below the 50 percent mark. “This represents a sea change in personal finances that challenges core assumptions about the way our economy works,” he says.

CoreLogic, however, reports that negative equity is getting better. “The level of negative equity continues to improve with more than 1.3 million households regaining a positive equity position since the beginning of the year,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Surging home prices this spring and summer, lower levels of inventory, and declining REO sale shares are all contributing to the nascent housing recovery and declining negative equity.”

Ironically, another Rasmussen survey in August found that most U.S. homeowners are confident they know the current value of their home and think it is worth more than when they bought it. The survey found that 82 percent of Americans who own a home were confident they know how much the house is worth in today’s market. That includes 43 percent who were “very confident.” Just 16 percent were “not very” or “not at all confident” that they know what their house is worth.

For more information, visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.