One of the most pernicious effects of the housing bust was the huge number of borrowers stuck in homes worth far less than those properties could be sold for.
Negative equity has been a major drag on mobility and hence the American economy. Being stuck "underwater" means you can't sell your house or often even move out if you get a job someplace else.
Now that problem is easing, ever so slightly, with the recent rebound in home prices. About 100,000 borrowers popped into a positive equity position during the third quarter of 2012, mortgage tracker CoreLogic reported Thursday.
In California, an estimated 1.9 million mortgages were underwater, accounting for about 28.3% of residences with a home loan.
"Through the third quarter, the number of underwater borrowers declined significantly," CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming said in a news release. "The substantive gain in house prices made in 2012, partly due to tight inventory caused by negative equity's lock-out effect, has paradoxically alleviated some of the pain."