Rising home prices have helped more home owners make their way above water again, with 1.7 million residential properties regaining equity in 2012, according to the latest figures from CoreLogic. The number of mortgaged home owners with equity now stands at 38.1 million. 

More home owners are expected to soon join them: About 1.8 million homes will regain equity if home prices rise by another 5 percent—which most economists have forecast for this year. 

“In the fourth quarter we again saw an improvement in the equity position of households,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Housing market improvements, particularly in the hardest hit states, are the catalyst for households to regain equity and become participants in 2013’s housing market.”

While the numbers are improving, many home owners are still underwater: About 21.5 percent—or 10.4 million—of all residential properties with a mortgage still retained negative equity at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012. That number is down 22 percent, year-over-year.

Nevada has the highest percentage of homes with negative equity (at 52.4%), followed by Florida (40.2%), Arizona (34.9%), Georgia (33.8%), and Michigan (31.9%). These five states alone account for 32.7 percent of the total amount of negative home equity in the U.S., according to CoreLogic.