NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Fewer U.S. homeowners were underwater on their mortgages in the third quarter of last year, helped by an improvement in home prices, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Thursday.
There were 10.7 million homeowners who owed more on their mortgages than their home was worth in the third quarter of the year, down from 10.8 million in the first six months of 2012, CoreLogic said.
That accounted for 22 percent of properties, down from 22.3 percent. An additional 2.3 million borrowers had less than 5 percent equity in their homes, considered to be near negative equity.
The large number of underwater homeowners - also known as being in negative equity - has raised concerns borrowers could choose to walk away from their homes rather than struggle with burdensome mortgages.
About 100,000 homeowners returned to positive equity in the third quarter, adding to the more than 1.3 million that were above water in the second quarter.
Negative equity totaled $658 billion at the end of the third quarter, down from $689 billion at the end of the second.