20.6 Million U.S. Homeowners Own Homes Free And Clear Of Mortgage Debt


Almost 21 million Americans, or 29.3 percent of homeowners, own their homes outright, unencumbered by a mortgage, according to a recent Zillow analysis of mortgage data.

Analyzing data through the third quarter of 2012, Zillow found that 20.6 million homeowners nationwide own their homes free and clear of mortgage debt.

Among the nation’s 30 largest metro areas included in the study, Pittsburgh (38.6 percent), Tampa (33.2 percent), New York (29.7 percent), Cleveland (29.4 percent) and Miami (28.9 percent) had the highest percentage of free-and-clear homeowners. Washington, D.C. (15.5 percent), Atlanta (17.7 percent), Las Vegas (18.3 percent), Denver (18.5 percent) and Charlotte (20 percent) had the lowest percentage.

A number of elements influence the percentage of free-and-clear homeowners in a given area, including median home values. Zillow found that areas with lower home values generally have higher outright homeownership rates, as smaller loan amounts are easier to pay back more quickly.

Demographic factors including the age and credit rating of primary borrowers also influence free-and-clear homeownership rates. Zillow found that 65- to 74-year-olds are most likely to be free-and-clear (20.5 percent), followed by 74- to 84-year-olds (17.9 percent). This is attributed to the fact that the longer someone owns a home, the longer they have to pay off their mortgage. Interestingly, when examining free-and-clear ownership rates as a percentage of homeowners in various age groups, Zillow found 34.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-old homeowners are free of mortgages.

Among homeowners who own their homes outright, 44 percent have a high VantageScore – representing their credit rating – between 800 and 900. Only 15.5 percent of homeowners with the highest credit rating of 900-990 are free-and-clear.

“So far we have used our unique data on how much homeowners owe on their homes primarily to identify underwater and delinquent groups of homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “But looking at those homeowners who are free-and-clear is important, too. Homeowners unencumbered by a mortgage may be more flexible than indebted homeowners, and therefore more apt or willing to list their homes or enter the market for 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.”

Zillow’s analysis incorporates mortgage data from TransUnion®, a global leader in credit and information management. All personally identifying information is removed from the data by TransUnion before delivery to Zillow. Overall, the data covers more than 800 metro areas, 2,100 counties and 21,900 ZIP codes nationwide. To calculate the free-and-clear homeownership rate, we compute the number of overall homeowners and number of homeowners with no outstanding mortgage debt by location and demographics. We exclude investor and rental homes.

METRO FREE-&-CLEAR
HOMEOWNERSHIP RATE
METRO FREE-&-CLEAR
HOMEOWNERSHIP RATE
New York 29.7% San Diego 21.5%
Los Angeles 20.7% Tampa 33.2%
Chicago 23.8% St. Louis 27.2%
Dallas-Fort Worth 24.5% Baltimore 22.5%
Philadelphia 27.6% Denver 18.5%
Washington, DC 15.5% Pittsburgh 38.6%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale 28.9% Portland 21.8%
Atlanta 17.7% Sacramento 21.5%
Boston 24.6% Orlando 24.6%
San Francisco 21.8% Cincinnati 23.7%
Detroit 28.8% Cleveland 29.4%
Riverside, Calif. 20.6% Las Vegas 18.3%
Phoenix 22.9% San Jose, Calif. 22.1%
Seattle 21.0% Columbus, Ohio 21.7%
Minneapolis-St Paul 20.6% Charlotte, NC 20.0%

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