Homeowners' debt on their houses exceeded their equity for the first time since the Federal Reserve Board began tracking it in 1945, falling below 50 percent.
MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS
· Today's low equity is a result of lax lending standards during the housing boom, when many buyers were able to obtain mortgages with little or no money down. Although some of those buyers could not afford their homes and lost them to foreclosure, some could afford houses-with help from alternative loan models-and but for those loans would have found homeownership beyond their reach.
· The statewide median price of existing single-family homes for January 2008 was $430,370. The last time we had a comparable median price was in March 2004, when the median was $428,060. Homeowners who bought their homes before 2004 will likely have more equity than those who purchased since 2004.
· The median home price in January 2003 was $336,210. Comparing the current median to five years ago, it is now 28 percent higher. People who buy a home and hold onto it at least five years will usually come out ahead.
· A house is not a stock. It's always been first and foremost a place to live, to raise a family or to retire. Even when prices were falling, home buyers who pursued a buy and hold strategy-retaining the property at least five years-have almost always come out ahead in the long-run. Historically, the value of single-family homes in California has increased about 9 percent a year.
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