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ATTOM Data Solutions recently released its first-quarter 2021 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which shows that 17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50% or less of their estimated market value.

The count of equity-rich properties in the first quarter of 2021 represented 31.9%, or about one in three, of the 55.8 million mortgaged homes in the United States. That was up from 30.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020, 28.3% in the third quarter and 26.5% in the first quarter of 2020—one of many measures showing how the U.S. housing market continues fending off economic damage caused by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

The report also shows that just 2.6 million, or one in 21, mortgaged homes in the first quarter of 2021 were considered seriously underwater, with a combined estimated balance of loans secured by the property at least 25% more than the property’s estimated market value. That figure represented 4.7% of all U.S. properties with a mortgage, down from 5.4% in the prior quarter, 6% in the third quarter of 2020 and 6.6% a year ago.

Among the 50 states, 41 showed an increase from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 in the percentage of homes considered equity-rich, while 49 saw a decrease in the percentage that were seriously underwater.

The improvement at both ends of the equity scale continued across the nation despite the fallout from the pandemic. Gains came as median home prices nationwide rose 16%, year-over-year, in the first quarter of 2021 and were up at least 10% in most of the country.

As the nine-year U.S. housing-market boom has surged ahead, equity has continued to improve because price increases have widened the gap between what homeowners owe on mortgages and the value of their properties. Prices have kept rising over the past year as rock-bottom interest rates and a desire to escape virus-prone areas have led to a bubble of homebuyers largely untainted by the pandemic’s financial damage. Those buyers have been chasing a declining supply of properties for sale, resulting in soaring values.

“It continues to be a great time to be a homeowner most everywhere in the country. The ongoing price spikes we’re seeing help to cut down the number of seriously underwater properties and boost the level of equity-rich properties,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “However, that may shift once the foreclosure moratorium is lifted and that’s something we’re watching, partly because it could limit equity gains and draw people underwater. For now, though, the equity picture remains one of many signs that the long U.S. housing market boom keeps charging ahead.”

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

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