#1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership: Family Wealth
While growing up, we were taught by our parents and grandparents that owning a home is a financially savvy move. They explained how a mortgage is like a “forced savings plan.” When you pay rent, that money is lost forever. When you make a mortgage payment, much of that money accumulates as equity in the home. So, what exactly is equity?
The equity in your home is the amount of money you can sell it for minus what you still owe on the mortgage. Every month you make a mortgage payment, and every month a portion of what you pay reduces the amount you owe. That reduction of your mortgage every month increases your equity.
A recent study by CoreLogic explained that homeowners gained substantial equity over the last twelve months, and are essentially sitting on large sums of cash in their homes. In the study, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic explained:
“The CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded a quickening of home price gains during the fourth quarter of 2019, helping to boost home equity wealth. The average family with a mortgage had a $7,300 gain in home equity during the past year, and a total of $177,000 in home equity wealth.”
For most families, their home is their largest financial asset. This increase in equity drives the net worth, or family wealth, of the homeowner. Renters are not earning that benefit. Instead, they’re building the net worth of their landlord.
Home price growth will moderate during the pandemic. But once a cure is available, most experts agree that home values will again begin to appreciate at levels similar to what we’ve seen over the last several years. In the long run, our family elders will be proven correct: owning a home is a savvy financial move.
Why Home Equity Is a Bright Spark in the Housing Market
Given how we have seen more unemployment claims than ever before over the past several weeks, fear is spreading widely. Some good news, however, shows that more than 4 million initial unemployment filers have likely already found a new job, especially as industries such as health care, food and grocery stores, retail, delivery, and more increase their employment opportunities. Breaking down what unemployment means for homeownership, and understanding the significant equity Americans hold today, are important parts of seeing the picture clearly when sorting through this uncertainty.
One of the biggest questions right now is whether this historic unemployment rate will initiate a new surge of foreclosures in the market. It’s a very real fear. Despite the staggering number of claims, there are actually many reasons why we won’t see a significant number of foreclosures like we did during the housing crash twelve years ago. The amount of equity homeowners have today is a leading differentiator in the current market.
Today, according to John Burns Consulting, 58.7% of homes in the U.S. have at least 60% equity. That number is drastically different than it was in 2008 when the housing bubble burst. The last recession was painful, and when prices dipped, many found themselves owing more on their mortgage than what their homes were worth. Homeowners simply walked away at that point. Now, 42.1% of all homes in this country are mortgage-free, meaning they’re owned free and clear. Those homes are not at risk for foreclosure (see graph below):In addition, CoreLogic notes the average equity mortgaged homes have today is $177,000. That’s a significant amount that homeowners won’t be stepping away from, even in today’s economy (see chart below):In essence, the amount of equity homeowners have today positions them to be in a much better place than they were in 2008.
The fear and uncertainty we feel right now are very real, and this is not going to be easy. We can, however, see strength in our current market through homeowner equity that has not been there in the past. That may be a bright spark to help us make it through.