U.S. Homeowners Gained $1 Trillion of Equity in Q3

U.S. Homeowners Gained $1 Trillion of Equity in Q3

Residential News » Irvine Edition | By Monsef Rachid | December 10, 2020 8:00 AM ET

CoreLogic's latest Home Equity Report for the third quarter of 2020 shows U.S. homeowners with mortgages (which account for roughly 63% of all properties) have seen equity increase by 10.8% year over year, representing a collective equity gain of $1 trillion, and an average gain of $17,000 per homeowner, since the third quarter of 2019. This marks the largest average equity gain since the first quarter of 2014.

Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, home prices soared throughout the summer and fall. Appreciation reached its highest level since 2014 in the third quarter of 2020 as prospective homebuyers continued to compete for the low supply of homes on the market, pushing home equity to record levels. Equity gains are likely to persist over the next several months as strong home-purchase demand is expected to remain high and continue pushing prices up. However, the CoreLogic HPI Forecast shows home prices slowing over the next 12 months as new home construction and more existing for-sale homes ease supply pressures. This could moderate the pace of both home price growth and equity gains.

"Over the past year, strong home price growth has created a record level of home equity for homeowners," said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "The average family with a home mortgage loan had $194,000 in home equity in the third quarter. This provides an important buffer to protect families if they experience financial difficulties, and is one reason for the generational-low in foreclosure rates reported in September."

"The housing market has remained a strong pillar in an otherwise tumultuous economic year," said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "A sharp rise in demand, spurred by record-low interest rates, continues to bolster homeowner equity. And with many people now spending more time than ever before at home, some homeowners have tapped into their strengthening equity to fund renovations."

Negative equity, also referred to as underwater or upside down, applies to borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth. As of the third quarter of 2020, negative equity share, and the quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year changes, were as follows:

  • Quarterly change: From the second quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2020, the total number of mortgaged homes in negative equity decreased by 6.9% to 1.6 million homes or 3% of all mortgaged properties.
  • Annual change: In the third quarter of 2019, 2 million homes, or 3.7% of all mortgaged properties, were in negative equity. This number decreased by 18.3%, or 370,000 properties, in the third quarter of 2020 to 1.6 million mortgaged properties in negative equity.
  • National aggregate value: The national aggregate value of negative equity was approximately $283.3 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2020. This is down quarter over quarter by approximately $2.2 billion, or 0.8%, from $285.5 billion in the second quarter of 2020, and down year over year by approximately $21.4 billion, or 7%, from $304.7 billion in the third quarter of 2019. 
Because home equity is affected by home price changes, borrowers with equity positions near (+/-5%) the negative equity cutoff are most likely to move out of or into negative equity as prices change. Looking at the third quarter of 2020 book of mortgages, if home prices increase by 5%, 247,000 homes would regain equity; if home prices decline by 5%, 337,000 would fall underwater.

While national figures continue to reflect a resilient housing market, equity gains varied broadly at the local level. States with strong home price growth and high home prices continued to experience the largest gains in equity. This includes Washington, where homeowners gained an average of $35,800; California, where homeowners gained an average of $33,800 and Massachusetts, where homeowners gained an average of $31,200. Meanwhile, North Dakota, which was hit hard by the pandemic, experienced the lowest annual equity gain (averaging just $5,400) in the third quarter of 2020.

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