New Study Finds Seniors Hold Biggest Share of U.S. Housing Wealth

Home equity generally increases with age as homeowners pay off their mortgage balances and home values rise, so it’s not surprising that seniors age 65 and older command the largest share of available home equity in the U.S., according to a recent study from the Urban Institute.

Owners age 65 and older command $3.1 trillion of the nation’s accessible housing wealth. This represents 44% of the $7 trillion in net housing wealth that is accessible among American homeowners, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis.

Meanwhile, homeowners under age 40 hold only 6% of accessible housing wealth despite accounting for 17% of all homeowners nationwide.

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Accessible housing wealth is even more concentrated in units owned by homeowners age 65 and older without a mortgage. Only 16% of homeowners under 40 were free of home debt, compared to over 70% of those 70 or older.

Moreover, researchers found that although owners age 65-plus without a mortgage made up only 19% of all homeowners, they own 30% of total housing wealth and 35% of all accessible wealth.

“Older consumers are more likely to have paid off all or part of their mortgages before the financial crisis, giving them more equity in their homes and making the housing burden more manageable,” states the Urban Institute in the study.

To measure the net and accessible housing wealth of Americans with owner-occupied homes, the Urban Institute uses the latest consumer credit card data supplemented with public property records and the American Community Survey’s Public Use Microdata Sample data.

Of the 73.3 million owner-occupied units across the U.S., the Urban Institute found 46.4 million had home debt such as mortgages and equity loans. In contrast, 26.9 million homes were owned free and clear without any home debt.

On average, each owner-occupied unit had a net housing wealth of $150,506, after subtracting all outstanding debt. For homes free and clear, the average net housing wealth was $229,296; and $104,932 for those with debt.

The Urban Institute study shows that the drive of Americans to achieve homeownership has generated significant accessible housing wealth. It also shows the inequality in net and accessible housing wealth across households, both demographically and geographically.

These findings raise several important policy questions that examine how homeownership, in and of itself, contributes to inequality; how current government policies exacerbate housing-based inequality; and how the wealth of lower-income homeowners can be better protected against a major downturn in home prices.

“Notwithstanding these concerns, homeownership remains an important part of wealth building among the vast majority of the population,” the report states. “Government at all levels, the government-sponsored enterprises, lenders, housing providers, and advocates must work together to improve access to mortgage credit that allows owners to sustain homeownership and enhance the economic well-being of their families.”

View the Urban Institute study here.

Written by Jason Oliva

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  • How is this unexpected?

    But once again it seems the emphasis is on credit not home value. It is not credit that changes radically but home values. Until we emphasize the most radical but least predictable component, all of this information is rather useless.

    It is not age that determines home wealth but location, location, and location. Paying off debt is helpful but here in California we see home wealth growing quickly on the coast through the rise of home prices.

    Some are predicting another burst but their view is rather limited. National averages are not valid measures of overvaluation but rather where home values are accelerating in places like the entire San Francisco Bay area, San Diego, and even the largest segments of Los Angeles. We see the same on the East Coast and in a few spots in the rest of the country.

    What we are not seeing are the high risk mortgages of the past but credit has gotten easier and should serve as a warning to policymakers who are constantly complaining about equality when in fact inequality comes more from location than from lending policies.

  • The material in the article Jason wrote are things most of us already know, just like The_Critic pointed out! Also, other items The_Critic pointed out are true as well!

    However, what Jason just gave all of us in this article, is a great sales tool to use when we are out there networking. Whether it be to the senior itself or to the financial planner, an attorney, small community bank or anyone we come in contact with that these statistics will come into play.

    I feel we need all the ammunition we can get, Jason’s article along with the Urban Institute study itself will give us that additional information in our tool box to use wisely!

    We need to look at articles like this differently, we can’t look at everything negatively, and I am NOT saying what The_Critic said was negative, please don’t take my statement in that way!

    Writers like Jason are doing much more than writing articles, they are giving us valuable information and tools to use daily!

    John A. Smaldone
    http://www.hanover-financial.com

    • John,

      Please, do not take me wrong. I am not against having the material we need to produce closings. What I am greatly against is losing our integrity doing it. If we just latch onto everything that is positive on the Internet, eventually we will find ourselves doing that in all we do. People think they can isolate their lack of integrity to one area but that rarely is the case.

      Facts can hurt our industry. Since that is the case, we need to change. Let us never be so optimistic that we begin embracing lies as our marketing content. Long-term, truth and facts matter far more than lost closings now. If positive articles alone could change our monthly endorsement counts, we should have seen much better counts for well over a year by now.

  • “Owners age 65 and older command $3.1 trillion of the nation’s accessible housing wealth”

    Last month in this same space, the following appeared:
    “The amount of home equity being held by potential age-qualified reverse mortgage borrowers now totals more than $6 trillion”

    Is it possible that those aged 62-64 hold $2.9 trillion in home equity, or is our industry’s “opportunity” not quite so great as the RMMI data would suggest?

    • REVGUYJIM,

      Good question but it seems to me someone will jump in and say that those aged 62-64 do hold that much housing wealth as we know both amounts help the industry sell HECMs! So the truth is relative to what helps us sell more HECMs, not in facts.

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