By Kathleen M. Howley – Jun 14, 2012
Americans are digging themselves out of mortgage debt.
Home equity in the first quarter rose to $6.7 trillion, the highest level since 2008 as homeowners taking advantage of record-low borrowing costs to refinance their loans brought cash to the table to pay down principal. The gain in percentage terms was the biggest jump in more than 60 years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg of Federal Reserve data.
It’s the strongest sign yet that Americans’ home-loan debt burden is beginning to ease after the record borrowing that created, and ultimately popped, the housing bubble, leaving almost a quarter of homeowners with mortgages owing more than their properties were worth, said Richard DeKaser, deputy chief economist at Parthenon Group LLC in Boston. Half the mortgages refinanced in the fourth quarter reduced loan size, a record, according to Freddie Mac, the government-owned mortgage buyer.