Dec 12, 2023 - Economy

A record share of U.S. homes are mortgage-free

Share of mortgage-free homes in the U.S.
Data: Census Bureau; Note: Data unavailable in 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals

There's a larger share of homes in America without mortgages now compared to any time since 2005, according to the latest census data.

Why it matters: This means some people aren't worrying about high mortgage rates.

Driving the news: Many free-and-clear homeowners are baby boomers who refinanced their mortgages when rates were lower, Bloomberg reports.

Zoom in: That's the case for Thom Schubbe, a technology consultant in Minnesota. Savings from multiple refinances allowed him and his wife to chisel down their mortgage debt and then buy a lake house.

  • That property is almost paid off too. "If you stick with it, you'll get a low rate," he tells Axios.

By the numbers: The share of mortgage-free U.S. homes has jumped from 34.3% to 39.3% in the past decade, per the census data.

Between the lines: There can be a psychological perk to paying off a loan early, but according to some personal finance experts, it could be smarter to invest that money instead.

  • "If people derive some intrinsic happiness out of paying off their mortgage because it reduces their stress, then that has value," Michael Roberts, a Wharton School finance professor, tells Bloomberg.

What we're watching: Mortgage-rate humble brags. Major forecasts predict rates will dip in 2024, but those 3%ers likely got the interest rate of a lifetime.

Go deeper: Pending home sales neared record low in October as mortgages approached 8%

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