Americans are equity-rich as home values rise

More than a quarter of mortgaged homes had an LTV lower than 50%

Almost 15 million homes in the U.S. were equity-rich in the fourth quarter, meaning their mortgages were 50% or less of their estimated market value, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Equity-rich properties were 27% of all mortgaged homes, matching the share in the prior quarter, the report said.

About 3.5 million homes with a mortgage were seriously underwater, meaning the loan exceeded the value of the property by 25% or more.

That figure represented 6.4% of all U.S. properties with a mortgage, down from 6.5% in the third quarter.

Among 8,262 U.S. zip codes, there were 451 zip codes where at least half of all properties with a mortgage were equity rich, ATTOM said.

Where are the highest equity levels? The San Francisco Bay area.

The top California zip codes were led by 94116 in San Francisco, at 82.6%, 94040 in Mountain View, at 81.7%, 94122 in San Francisco, at 80.6%, 94112 in San Francisco, at 80.1%, and 94087 in Sunnyvale, at 79.5%.

Among 107 metropolitan statistical areas with a population greater than 500,000, those with the highest shares of equity-rich properties were San Jose, California, at 65.9%, San Francisco, at 57.5%, Los Angeles, at 47.8%, Santa Rosa, California, at 45.9%, and Honolulu, at 39.3%.

Boston had the highest equity-rich share in the Northeast, at 35.6%. Dallas, led the South, at 36.5%, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, led in the Midwest, at 27.4%.

Measured by state, California was 42.8% equity-rich, followed by Vermont, at 39.2%, Hawaii, at 38.8%, Washington, at 35.4%, and New York, at 35.1%.

Counties with the highest share of equity-rich properties were located in California: San Mateo, California, at 73.6%, San Francisco, at 70.1%, and Santa Clara, at 66.9%. They were followed by San Juan, in Washington, at 63.5%, and Alameda County, California, near San Francisco, at 57.7%.

States with the lowest percentage of equity-rich properties remained scattered across the U.S.: Louisiana was 13.6% equity-rich, followed by Oklahoma, at 14.9%, Illinois, at 15.3%, Arkansas, at 16.3%, and Alabama, at 16.5%.

Metro areas with the lowest percentage of equity-rich properties were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at 10.8% equity-rich, Little Rock, Arkansas, 13.4%, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 13.7%, Columbia, South Carolina, 13.9%, and Akron, Ohio, 14.6%.

The highest seriously underwater shares were located in the South and Midwest, ATTOM said.

The top states with the highest shares of mortgages seriously underwater were Louisiana, at 16.8%, Mississippi, at 16%, West Virginia, at 13.9%, Iowa, at 13.5%, and Arkansas, at 12.9%.

Among 107 metro areas with a population greater than 500,000, those with the highest share of mortgages that were seriously underwater included Youngstown, Ohio, at 16.2%, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at 15.9%, Scranton, Pennsylvania, at 15%, Cleveland, Ohio, at 13.7%, and Akron, Ohio, at 13.4%.

The report showed “how much the country has benefited from an eight-year housing-market boom,” said Todd Teta, ATTOM’s chief product officer. “Some big gaps in equity levels persist between regions and market segments. But as home values keep climbing, financial resources keep building for homeowners, which provides them with leverage to make home repairs, help their children through college or take on other major expenses.”

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