Equity-rich homeowners see rosy first quarter

But there's a chance the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will pull home values down

Equity-rich homeowners see rosy first quarter

Homeowners' balance sheets remained stable in the first quarter, with homeowners remaining four times as likely to equity-rich than seriously underwater, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Around one in four mortgaged US homes were considered equity-rich, representing 14.5 million (26.5%) of the 54.7 million residential properties in the country. That's down from 26.7% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile, there were only 3.6 million homes tagged as seriously underwater in the first quarter, making up 6.6% of all properties with a mortgage – slightly up from 6.4% in Q4 2019.

"In the latest marker of the ongoing housing market boom, mortgage payers were four times as likely to have homes worth considerably more than what they owed on their loans than considerably less," said Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. "But as with other rosy first-quarter reports, this one needs to be taken in the context of the looming impact of the coronavirus pandemic."

Teta said there's a possibility that home values will decline as a result of the coronavirus economic crisis, leading to a downturn in equity levels and an uptick in underwater levels over the coming months.

States in the Northeast and West regions had the highest concentration of equity-rich properties in the first quarter, with California (42.3%) at the top of the list. Hawaii (39%), Vermont (38.2%), Washington (36.6%), and Oregon (34%) rounded up the top five.

Meanwhile, states with the highest percentage of seriously underwater mortgaged homes were in the South and the Midwest, led by Louisiana (17.3%), Mississippi (16.9%), West Virginia (157%), Iowa (14.2%), and Arkansas (13%).