Ah, the good old days of 2007, when the cracks in the housing and financial markets had only begun to emerge for the nation’s 112 million occupied homes, be they rented or owned.

For homeowners with a mortgage, house prices were still on the upswing, with a median value of $216,400, up a respectable four percent from 2006 for owner-occupied housing units with a mortgage. 

There were 51.6 million of such owner-occupied homes with a mortgage in 2007, according to the Census bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), accounting for 46 percent of the country’s 112 million occupied homes. Each month, these households spent a median of $1,464 to live in those homes, a 4.4 percent uptick in housing costs from 2006. But the real jump came in real estate taxes, which jumped more than 6 percent to $2,099 for owner-occupied homes with a mortgage.

The good news is that at least in 2007, these homeowners could afford such increases … sort of. With a median household income of $73,408 last year, this group only spent 23.9 percent of its income on housing costs, a surprisingly affordable percentage given the soaring home prices of the now-past housing boom. In contrast, the median household income for all Americans last year was $50,740.

The most surprising findings came from data detailing the financial characteristics of American households. Despite the extensive coverage on the indebtedness of American homeowners, the ACS showed that only 1.1 percent of those with mortgages had both a second mortgage (the now-uncommon “piggyback” loan) and a home equity line of credit.

Nearly three-quarters (73.3 percent) neither carried a second mortgage nor maintained a home equity line of credit.

Of course, that was 2007. This year has brought a bevy of bad housing news to builders, homeowners, and banks, from adjustable-rate mortgage resets and sinking home prices to skyrocketing foreclosures and financial bailouts for major financial institutions. Given the current economic situation, homeowners are highly unlikely to feel as secure about their home investment—and the wisdom of buying a new home—as these 2007 numbers might suggest.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.