Dicristo is in growing company. About 24% of all residential properties with mortgages had negative equity at the end of 2009, according to First American CoreLogic. That's up from 10.7 million and 23% at the end of September.
Dicristo can't sell her home and move, but she may be forced to leave. She no longer can afford the payments on her home and expects to be foreclosed upon.
She's living on Social Security and unemployment and drawing $800 a month from her $200,000 retirement account, but she says she has no choice but to walk away from her current home.
Her credit score had been close to a sterling 800, reflecting the type of borrower many banks would lend to at low interest rates. Because she's been unable to make her mortgage payments, she believes her credit score has sunk to about 500, a score that would make it difficult for her to get a home loan.
Dicristo's state, California, is among the top five states where negative equity is most concentrated. But it's not in the lead. Nevada had the highest percentage of negative equity with 70% of its mortgaged properties underwater, followed by Arizona at 51%, Florida with 48%, Michigan with 39%. California came in at 35%, according to First American CoreLogic.