Americans today aren’t taking equity out of their homes at nearly the same rate as in the prior decade, reports MarketWatch staffer Andrea Riquier, which has caused a decline in mortgage debt.
According to data compiled in the regional bank’s quarterly report on household debt and crisis, in 2008 just as the subprime crisis was coming to a head, Americans had $12.68 trillion in debt outstanding, of which housing debt made up $10 trillion, or 79% of the total. In the fourth quarter of 2015, there was $12.12 trillion in total debt, and housing’s share had dwindled to 72%, or $8.74 trillion.
Every year from 2003-2007, cash-out refinances and home equity lines of credit rose at a rate of more than $300 billion. In 2015, such debt grew only by $30 billion.
The shrinking mortgage debt is a good thing, the New York Fed researchers conclude. Principal pay-down is a form of saving for borrowers, so in the face of rising home prices this means strengthening balance sheets for mortgagors. This is important, of course, as we learned in 2008 just how crucial household debts can be.