Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Case of the Missing Equity

Now that the bubble has burst and housing prices are in free fall, where did all that equity go? You now, the equity that helped fuel our patriotic consumption. According to Bloomberg in the article titled U.S. Property Owners Lost $3.3 Trillion in Home Value Last Year. No wonder equity withdrawals are limited, there is no equity left. Lets take a look -

The U.S. housing market lost $3.3 trillion in value last year and almost one in six owners with mortgages owed more than their homes were worth as the economy went into recession, Zillow.com said.

The median estimated home price declined 11.6 percent in 2008 to $192,119 and homeowners lost $1.4 trillion in value in the fourth quarter alone, the Seattle-based real estate data service said in a report today.

“It’s like a runaway train gaining momentum,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s vice president of data and analytics, said in an interview. “It’s difficult to say when we’ll see a bottom to the housing market.”

About $6.1 trillion of value has been lost since the housing market peaked in the second quarter of 2006 and last year’s decline was almost triple the $1.3 trillion lost in 2007, Zillow said.

The number of homeowners with negative equity, or those who owed more on their homes than the property was worth, rose to 17.6 percent from 14.3 percent in the third quarter, Zillow said. The company began its quarterly reports in 2006.

According to the article, for the 4th quarter median prices were down 6.2% for the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island area. The new median price for this region is $395,478. While the numbers are somewhat bad, the financial fall out from Wall Street problems will not be felt for some time.

Also, the 17.6 percent underwater hopefully the are just for the 68% owner occupied ones that actually have mortgages. If 17.6% of all houses (including rentals) are underwater that means approximately 19,481,792 properties are underwater. If it is just for all the owner-occupied properties the would be about 13,313,872. And if it is owner occupied with a mortgages the number underwater would be 8,177,136. None of these numbers are good, but there is a huge difference between almost 20 million properties being underwater and just over 8 million.

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