The housing market is historically unaffordable – but a record number of Americans now own


A record number of Americans own their homes without a mortgage.REUTERS

The share of US homes without a mortgage jumped five percentage points from 2012 to 2022 to a record near 40%, Bloomberg reported.

More than half of those homeowners are at retirement age.

Historically high mortgage rates and home prices have kept many Americans sidelined from the market.

The current US housing landscape is sidelining potential homebuyers, who are scared off by 8% mortgages and stubbornly high prices — but climbing interest rates aren’t a problem for the record number of Americans who own their homes without a mortgage.

The share of homeowners that are mortgage-free surged 5% between 2012 and 2022, Bloomberg reported Friday, citing data from the Census Bureau, hitting a new record just below 40%. In 2012, there were 7.9 million mortgage-free single-family homes and condos. Census data analyzed by Bloomberg show that the figure increased to 33.3 million over the subsequent decade.

Millions of Americans refinanced their mortgages before the recent rate spike, and some have done it multiple times over several decades. Lower rates of the past allowed many borrowers to enter shorter-term loans without radically increasing their monthly payments.

Then, many benefitted further when property values surged after the 2008 crisis.

More than half of mortgage-free homeowners are at retirement age. Without the burdens of a mortgage, some can move as they please. They’re moving from more expensive regions to the Sun Belt, where they are able to buy homes outright. Construction is booming in these states, and the share of mortgage-free homes is high. From the start of the pandemic in 2020 up to 2022, 29% of new homes built in the US were in Florida and Texas, two places that together saw 43% of homes owned outright, per Bloomberg.

As Business Insider reported, about 730,000 people moved to Florida between 2021 and 2022. It’s part of the “biggest migration” in a generation, said Holly Meyer Lucas, a real-estate agent in South Florida. Texas and Arizona, she added, have also seen an uptick, among other lower-tax states.

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West Virginia, meanwhile, has the largest share of mortgage-free homes, at about 53%, Bloomberg reported. Zillow data cited by Bloomberg shows the median price there hit $157,498 in October, the lowest in the country.

This week, rates on the 30-year fixed mortgage hovered at 7.77%, the lowest level in roughly two months, tumbling as Treasury yields pull back from multi-year highs in November.

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