Jan 13, 2024 - Real Estate

Nearly 27% of Denver homes are mortgage-free

Data: Census Bureau; Note: Data unavailable in 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Census Bureau; Note: Data unavailable in 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals

There's a growing share of Denver homes without mortgages.

Why it matters: The trend reflects a group of homeowners who aren't worrying about high mortgage rates.

Zoom in: For some, being mortgage-free has unlocked new freedoms. "What did we do with our monthly surplus? We relaxed! I just don't worry about money in the same way," says Mary Hilken, a Denver homeowner.

Yes, but: Mortgage-free doesn't mean expense-free. Lynn Clark paid off her Boulder County home in 2020 and expected to have "a nice cash cushion each month."

  • Upkeep, property taxes, home insurance and inflated living costs have eaten into that.

By the numbers: Nearly 27% of Denver homes were owned outright in 2022, up from 25% in 2017, according to the latest census data.

Between the lines: Many free-and-clear owners are baby boomers who refinanced their mortgages when rates were lower, Bloomberg reports.

Zoom in: Axios Denver reader Carole Goodwin and her husband bought their first home in 1977 in California. "When we sold it, we put 25% on our second home which we paid $225,000 for in 1986," Goodwin tells us.

  • They paid off that home in the '90s, and have been mortgage-free since.
  • They've used the proceeds from one home sale to fund the next, and are now settled in a $1 million+ Denver condo that they own outright.

Be smart: "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.

  • 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.

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

Go deeper: Mortgages dip below 7% after the Fed hints at rate cuts

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