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US householders now sitting on $17 trillion in house fairness — and simply 5 markets making up almost 25% of that sum

US homeowners now sitting on $17 trillion in home equity — and just 5 markets making up nearly 25% of that sum

US homeowners now sitting on $17 trillion in home equity — and just 5 markets making up nearly 25% of that sum

American mortgage holders now have access to a whopping $11 trillion in tappable equity — out of $17 trillion in total — which is a record for U.S. homeowners.

The May 2024 Mortgage Monitor report from Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) tells the story with a number so huge that if all 48 million American homeowners spent $10 million of their tappable equity a day, it would take more than 3,000 years to exhaust it. We’re talking 12.1 million tons of dollar bills. It’s more money than the GDP of Japan, India and the U.K. combined. And certainly way more than enough to secure a credit line if needed.

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Why so much equity and why now? The report suggests a unique confluence of factors. As current homeowners with ultra-low mortgage rates resist selling their properties, market inventory remains historically tight. That in turn has allowed those owners to reap the benefits of rising prices, especially in the last three months — and that has created more equity as a result.

“Strong price gains continue to plague would-be home buyers in today’s higher-rate environment, but for existing homeowners the picture keeps growing brighter,” said Andy Walden, ICE’s Vice President of Enterprise Research Strategy, in a statement.

West Coast has most equity

The ICE report identifies just five markets on the West Coast as responsible for about a quarter of that $11 trillion equity figure: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Seattle. That four of the five are in California dovetails with another rich fact of real estate life: Roughly one-fifth of the nation’s total housing value is in California, making it the nation’s most valuable market, according to Zillow.

And in Seattle, median home prices went up106%, from $401,679 in 2013 to $826,592 in 2023, per figures compiled by Construction Coverage, a construction industry website. And while you might think that the mass exodus from San Francisco might’ve hurt home prices, that’s not the case. While the 378 homes sold in March 2024 were down from 420 in March 2023, prices rose 4.2% year over year, putting the median sales price at $1.4 million, according to Redfin.

All of this goes hand in hand with earning power that allows many homeowners to stay invested in valuable property. CareerBuilder ranks San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle first, second and third for top average salary, with Los Angeles finishing 10th.

Read more: This little-known investment strategy can save you thousands on your taxes

Home equity, HELOCs and healthy decision making

As the May 2024 Mortgage Monitor report uses the word “tappable,” it’s no surprise that part of it drives at how consumers could put their equity to work. Tappable equity refers to how much a homeowner can leverage and still retain a 20% equity cushion in the property. This currently works out to roughly $229,000 per mortgage holder.

One of the most popular ways to utilize this money is through a home equity line of credit or HELOC. It’s not so much a loan as revolving credit with a variable interest rate, secured by the amount you’ve paid off on your mortgage. It typically lasts anywhere from five to 15 years.

On the upside, HELOC funds can be poured back into your home for improvements that may further drive up its value. It’s also a popular way to finance big-ticket expenses such as college tuition and an option to consolidate high-interest debt. Moreover, any drop in interest rates per the Federal Reserve will positively affect HELOC rates.

But falling behind on a HELOC can wreak far more havoc than with an ordinary bank loan. Because you secure it with your home, a default can lead to the lender taking possession of the property. It’s wise to have meaningful reasons for using the credit and not treat it as proverbial funny money.

Whether you live out by the Pacific, or in any area where your tappable equity is overflowing, consider yourself fortunate. You’re living in an opportune time like no other, able to enjoy a financial home sweet home run.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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