WASHINGTON (11/30/15)--A new report from CoreLogic has found that despite a drop in the actual percentage of homeowners with underwater mortgages, the percentage of homeowners who still think their homes are underwater has barely budged.
In fact, the percentage of homeowners who are underwater--meaning they owe more on their mortgages than the value of their homes--has fallen to 8.7% from 21% since the end of 2011, while the percentage of homeowners who believe their homes are underwater remains at a lofty 27%, according to Fannie Mae.
This perhaps could explain recent tight inventories in the single-family housing market (MarketWatch Nov. 23).
It could also be a symptom of the lingering effects of the housing market crash.
The Wall Street Journal recently dug into why the housing market has failed to fuel the economy of late, and learned that consumers continue to play it safe when it comes to leveraging equity in their homes.
“Consumers are definitely more conservative financially than they were 10 years ago,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae chief economist (The Journal Nov. 22). “They’ve seen that house prices can be volatile.”
While home prices have appreciated, which, apparently unbeknownst to homeowners, has likely yanked many homes above water, the rate at which homeowners are pulling out equity has stood flat.
Home equity has roughly doubled since house prices bottomed out in 2011, according to Federal Reserve numbers. But homeowners only borrowed $43.5 billion in the first half of 2015, a pittance compared with the numbers homeowners posted before the recession hit.
According to Moody’s, interest in home-equity lines of credit has waned so drastically that every $1 in home value appreciation translates into only two extra cents of consumer spending, roughly a third of the prerecession rate.
Still, Mark Zandi, Moody’s chief economist, told The Journal that eventually consumers will regain confidence and begin tapping equity.
“Since the crash, it’s all been about repairing homeowners’ equity, but now that house prices are returning to prerecession levels, we will see homeowners’ equity driving consumer spending, home improvements and economic activity,” he said.