As federal regulators and banks argue over whether new lending standards will make mortgage credit too tight or too expensive, one important fact about the housing market goes largely overlooked: More than 20 million American homeowners own their homes outright. No mortgage.
This represents just about one third of all homeowners nationwide, according to a new report from Zillow, a real estate information, sales and mortgage website.
Demographics, home prices and geographical location all seem to play into “free-and-clear” home ownership, according to Zillow’s survey.
Out of the nation’s top 30 housing markets, Pittsburgh, Tampa, New York, Cleveland and Miami had the highest percentage of free-and-clear homeowners. A high number of all-cash, foreign buyers probably plays into New York and Miami. The other cities have relatively low home values, compared to the rest of the nation, making it easier for homeowners to either buy their homes outright or pay off their mortgages more quickly.
So what can these factors tell us about the current housing recovery?
One of the biggest drags on the housing market is that nearly one third of all borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth. These so-called “underwater” borrowers are stuck in place, unless they want to pay in to their mortgages to get out of their homes.
Obviously if a homeowner does not have a mortgage, they are more able to list their home for sale and buy a new property.
“By determining where these homeowners are located, we can also gain insight into potential inventory and demand in those areas, as well,” notes Zillow’s chief economist Stan Humphries.