The ‘Equity Rich’ Home Owner Is Back

January 26, 2015

About 20 percent of all properties with a mortgage – or 11.3 million -- are now considered “equity rich,” with home owners who have at least 50 percent positive equity in their properties. The number has been steadily climbing, up from 9.1 million a year ago, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report for the fourth quarter of 2014.

“Median home prices bottomed out in March 2012 and since then have increased 35 percent, lifting 5.8 million home owners out of seriously underwater territory,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “While the remaining seriously underwater properties continue to be a millstone around the neck of some local markets, the growing number of equity rich home owners should help counteract the downward pull of negative equity in many markets, empowering those housing markets — and by extension their local economies — to walk on water in 2015.”

Equity rich properties rose nearly by 2.2 million in 2014 alone.

What’s more, equity has returned to many properties in distress too. The number of distressed properties – those in some stage of foreclosure – with positive equity is higher than the share of distressed properties that were seriously underwater in the fourth quarter, according to RealtyTrac’s report. At the end of the fourth quarter, 42 percent of distressed properties had positive equity compared to 31 percent a year ago.

“Over the last year and a half I have had more people come to me thinking they need a short sale only to be shocked by the current market value and the positive equity in their home,” Frank Duran, broker at RE/MAX Alliance in Westminster, Colo., told RealtyTrac. In the Denver metro area, for example, 81 percent of distressed home owners had positive equity at the end of 2014 – which is the highest percentage of any market tracked by RealtyTrac nationwide.

Additional major markets where the number of distressed properties that have positive equity of more than 60 percent include: Pittsburgh (81%); Oklahoma City (76%); Austin, Texas (73%); Nashville (70%); San Antonio (63%); San Francisco (62%); and Raleigh, N.C. (61%).

Meanwhile, the number nationwide of home owners who are seriously underwater – where the borrower’s mortgage amount is at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value – continues to fall. Seriously underwater properties comprised about 13 percent of all homes with a mortgage by the end of 2014, significantly down from a peak reached in the second quarter of 2012 when that percentage stood at 29 percent.

Source: RealtyTrac