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A good sign: More Tampa Bay homeowners tapping into equity

Tampa Bay homeowners are once again tapping into the equity in their homes, a sign of an improving housing market and greater confidence in the economy.

In the 12 months ended in June, nearly 60 percent more home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, originated in the bay area compared with the previous 12 months, according to the housing data source RealtyTrac.

Nationwide, HELOCs were up 20.6 percent from a year ago and at the highest level since the 12 months that ended in June 2009, the depths of the Great Recession.

"The recent rise in HELOC originations indicates that an increasing number of homeowners are gaining confidence in the strength of the housing recovery and, more importantly, have regained much of their home equity lost during the housing crisis," RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist said in a statement.

Blomquist said nearly 10 million U.S. homeowners, representing 19 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage, now have at least 50 percent equity in their homes. Meanwhile, the percentage of homeowners with negative equity has substantially decreased.

In the Tampa Bay area, 7,048 homeowners took out HELOCs in the 12 months ended in June, a 55.8 percent increase over the previous year but 90 percent lower than in 2006. That was at the peak of the housing bubble, when millions of Americans borrowed against the then-soaring value of their homes to pay for new cars, exotic vacations and extensive renovations.

Metro areas with the biggest year-over-year increase in new HELOCs were Riverside-San Bernardino in Southern California (87.7 percent), Las Vegas (85.1 percent) and Cincinnati (81 percent).

Areas with the smallest increases were Minneapolis-St. Paul at just 0.2 percent, followed by Louisville, Ky., Philadelphia and Virginia Beach, Va., all with increases of less than 5 percent.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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