While the coronavirus pandemic created economic uncertainty for many, the continued acceleration in home prices over the last year has meant existing homeowners saw a notable boost in home equity. The accumulation of equity has become critically important to homeowners deciding on their post-forbearance options. In contrast to the financial crisis, when many borrowers were underwater, borrowers today who are behind on mortgage payments can tap into their equity and sell their home rather than lose it through foreclosure. These conditions are reflected in a recent CoreLogic survey, with 74% of current homeowners with mortgages noting they are not concerned with owing more on their home than it is worth within the next five years.
“Homeowner equity has more than doubled over the past decade and become a crucial buffer for many weathering the challenges of the pandemic,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “These gains have become an important financial tool and boosted consumer confidence in the U.S. housing market, especially for older homeowners and baby boomers who’ve experienced years of price appreciation.”
“Double-digit home price growth in the past year has bolstered home equity to a record amount. The national CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded an 11.4% rise in the year through March 2021, leading to a $216,000 increase in the average amount of equity held by homeowners with a mortgage,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “This reduces the likelihood of large numbers of distressed sales from homeowners who emerge from forbearance later in the year.”
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 first quarter of 2021, negative equity share, and the quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year changes, were as follows:
- Quarterly change: From the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, the total number of mortgaged homes in negative equity decreased by 7% to 1.4 million homes, or 2.6% of all mortgaged properties.
- Annual change: In the first quarter of 2020, 1.8 million homes, or 3.4% of all mortgaged properties, were in negative equity. This number decreased by 24%, or 450,000 properties, in the first quarter of 2021.
- National aggregate value: The national aggregate value of negative equity was approximately $273 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2021. This is down quarter over quarter by approximately $8.1 billion, or 2.9%, from $281.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, and down year over year by approximately $13.3 billion, or 4.6%, from $286.3 billion in the first quarter of 2020.
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, respectively. Looking at the first quarter of 2021 book of mortgages, if home prices increase by 5%, 195,000 homes would regain equity; if home prices decline by 5%, 260,000 would fall underwater.
The next CoreLogic Homeowner Equity Report will be released in September 2021, featuring data for Q2 2021. For ongoing housing trends and data, visit the CoreLogic Insights Blog: www.corelogic.com/insights-index.aspx.
The amount of equity for each property is determined by comparing the estimated current value of the property against the mortgage debt outstanding (MDO). If the MDO is greater than the estimated value, then the property is determined to be in a negative equity position. If the estimated value is greater than the MDO, then the property is determined to be in a positive equity position. The data is first generated at the property level and aggregated to higher levels of geography. CoreLogic uses public record data as the source of the MDO, which includes more than 50 million first- and second-mortgage liens, and is adjusted for amortization and home equity utilization in order to capture the true level of MDO for each property. Only data for mortgaged residential properties that have a current estimated value are included. There are several states or jurisdictions where the public record, current value or mortgage data coverage is thin and have been excluded from the analysis. These instances account for fewer than 5% of the total U.S. population. The percentage of homeowners with a mortgage is from the 2019 American Community Survey. Data for the previous quarter was revised. Revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results.