Home-Equity Wealth Makes a Comeback

Home prices have risen significantly throughout the nation since the 2011 trough in the housing cycle. The Home Price Index has recorded a 40 percent rise in the national index since the trough, with some areas up more sharply and other markets showing a more subdued bounce back.One outcome of the broad geographic recovery in home values has been a rebuilding of home- equity wealth for America’s homeowners. The difference between the value of one’s home and the amount of mortgage debt on the home is home equity. If you own your home – free and clear of mortgage debt – then the entire value of your home is your home-equity wealth. However, if you have a mortgage and the value of your home falls, you may have no home equity. Or worse, if the value of your home has fallen below your mortgage debt, then you have negative equity. As of mid-2016, it is estimated that about 3.6 million homeowners, or about 7 percent of all homeowners who had a mortgage, had negative equity.

Across the U.S., the value of the housing stock and the amount of home-equity wealth held by homeowners have risen dramatically during the last five years. After hitting a trough in June 2011, the value of the nation’s single-family housing stock grew 40 percent by June 2016. Home-equity wealth has more than doubled during that period, rising from $6.1 trillion to $12.7 trillion. By rebuilding this component of household wealth, the recovery in home equity has helped support consumption spending and renovation expenditures. While estimates vary, it has been estimated that for every $100 rise in housing wealth, consumption spending rises roughly two dollars. In other words, a $6 trillion rise in housing wealth has lifted consumer spending by more than $100 billion during the last five years. And renovation expenditures are up as well, further contributing to economic growth.

Nationwide, from mid-2015 to mid-2016, the average gain in wealth was about $11,000 per homeowner, but with wide geographic variation. California, Oregon and Washington had increases of nearly $30,000 per average owner, while Connecticut, New Jersey, North Dakota and Pennsylvania had no change or experienced a decline.

It is projected that the national Home Price Index will rise another 5 percent in the coming year, helping to boost home-equity wealth by close to $1 trillion. In turn, this wealth gain should add to consumption spending and contribute to economic growth in 2017.

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