Home values in the United States posted their largest quarterly decline since the first quarter of 2009, falling 2.6% as the temporary stimulus of the home buyer tax credits wore off, according to Zillow’s fourth quarter Real Estate Market Reports. The Zillow Home Value Index declined 5.9% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $175,200. Home values have fallen 27% since they peaked in June 2006.

They report that "the bulk of the total value lost during 2010 was in the second half of the year. From January to June, the housing market lost $680 billion. From June to December, Zillow projects residential home value losses will top $1 trillion."

Some of the largest losses in value were seen in the West. Los Angeles' values fell by $38,000 over the course of 2010. And they are down a whopping $676,000 from the peak in the second quarter of 2006. Phoenix, Arizona, saw values falls by $36,000 in 2010. This is down $222,000 from peak times.

Accelerating home value declines, as well as a slowdown in the nation’s foreclosure rate following the late-2010 robo-signing controversy, contributed to an increase in negative equity. At the end of the fourth quarter, 27% of single-family homeowners with mortgages owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth, up from 23.2% in the third quarter.

Less than one in every 1,000 (0.09%) U.S. homes were liquidated in foreclosure in December 2010, down from 0.12% in October, when foreclosure liquidations peaked. Foreclosures are expected to increase again in early 2011, which may cause negative equity to fall as some underwater homeowners lose their homes to foreclosure and are no longer in negative equity.

Conforming 30 year fixed mortgage rates have gradually increased from 4.625% to 4.875% while 15 year have gone from 3.875% to 4.250% according to FreeRateUpdate.com's daily survey of wholesale and direct lenders rate sheets. These mortgage rates continue to be available to well qualified borrowers with 0.7 to 1% origination fee.