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Rising house prices have been a boon to all homeowners, not just those wanting to sell.

Just 7.3 percent of Twin Citians with a mortgage owed more than their house was worth during the third quarter last year, according to a new report from CoreLogic. That’s down from nearly 10 percent a year ago and less than half the rate two years ago.

Nationwide, about 5.1 million homes, or 10.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage, were still in negative equity during the third quarter of last year compared with 10.9 percent during the previous quarter and 13.3 percent in the third quarter of 2013. That’s a net year-over-year increase in borrower equity of about $800 billion.

“This makes it possible for more people to step up to a bigger house,” said Herb Tousley, director of the real estate center in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas. “For a long time, they were just locked out of the market.”

Though the volume of home sales in the Twin Cities metro faltered last year, prices have risen for 33 consecutive months, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. And while those sale prices still haven’t rebounded to pre-crash levels, the decline is providing an opportunity for those who are forced to sell their home because they’re struggling to pay their mortgage. As a result, the foreclosure rate in the Twin Cities metro area has fallen to return to more normal levels.

Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a statement that the negative equity rate has dropped most sharply in Nevada, Georgia, Michigan and Florida. “Forecasted house price appreciation of about 5 percent over the next year suggests that negative equity should be at about 8 percent a year from now, still above average, but approaching the pre-crisis level,” Khater said.

Nevada, where the negative equity was 25.4 percent, had the highest percentage of upside-down homeowners, followed by Florida (23.8 percent), Arizona (19 percent) and Rhode Island (14.8 percent).

Negative equity can happen when house values decline in value, mortgage debt rises or a combination of both.

In the 13-county metro a total of 42,477 residential properties were underwater compared with 47,691 properties during the previous quarter. An additional 2.6 percent, or 15,245 properties, were in near negative equity compared with 2.9 percent, or 16,658, in the second quarter of 2014.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376