Almost 30% of US home owners have no mortgage, data shows

Almost 21 million Americans, or 29.3% of home owners, own their homes outright, unencumbered by a mortgage, according to the most recent figures to be analysed by Zillow.

Taking figures for the third quarter of 2012, Zillow found that 20.6 million home owners nationwide own their homes free and clear of mortgage debt.

Among the nation’s 30 largest metro areas included in the study Pittsburgh with 38.6%, Tampa at 33.2%, New York at 29.7%, Cleveland at 29.4% and Miami at 28.9%, had the highest percentage of free and clear home owners.

Washington D.C. with 15.5%, Atlanta with 17.7%, Las Vegas with 18.3%, Denver with 18.5% and Charlotte with 20% had the lowest percentage.

A number of elements influence the percentage of free and clear homeowners in a given area, including median home values. Zillow found that areas with lower home values generally have higher outright home ownership rates, as smaller loan amounts are easier to pay back more quickly.

Demographic factors including the age and credit rating of primary borrowers also influence the rates. Zillow found that 65 to 74 year-olds are most likely to be without a mortgage, accounting for 20.5% of the total, followed by 74 to 84 year olds at 17.9%. This is attributed to the fact that the longer someone owns a home, the longer they have to pay off their mortgage.
However, the firm also found that 34.5% of 20 to 24 year-old home owners are free of mortgages.

Among home owners who own their homes outright, 44% have a high VantageScore, representing their credit rating, between 800 and 900. Only 15.5% of home owners with the highest credit rating of 900 990 had no mortgage.

‘So far we have used our unique data on how much home owners owe on their homes primarily to identify underwater and delinquent groups of homeowners,’ said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries.

‘But looking at those home owners who are free and clear is important, too. Home owners unencumbered by a mortgage may be more flexible than indebted home owners, and therefore more apt or willing to list their homes or enter the market for a new property. By determining where these homeowners are located, we can also gain insight into potential inventory and demand in those areas, as well,’ he explained.

Zillow’s analysis incorporates mortgage data from TransUnion, a global leader in credit and information management, covering more than 800 metro areas, 2,100 counties and 21,900 ZIP codes nationwide.

To calculate the free and clear home ownership rate, it computed the number of overall home owners and number of home owners with no outstanding mortgage debt by location and demographics. The research included investor and rental homes.