As federal regulators and banks argue over whether new lending standards will make mortgage credit too tight or too expensive, one important fact about the housing market goes largely overlooked: More than 20 million American homeowners own their homes outright. No mortgage.
This represents just about one third of all homeowners nationwide, according to a new report from Zillow, a real estate information, sales and mortgage website.
Demographics, home prices and geographical location all seem to play into "free-and-clear" home ownership, according to Zillow's survey.
Out of the nation's top 30 housing markets, Pittsburgh, Tampa, New York, Cleveland and Miami had the highest percentage of free-and-clear homeowners. A high number of all-cash, foreign buyers probably plays into New York and Miami. The other cities have relatively low home values, compared to the rest of the nation, making it easier for homeowners to either buy their homes outright or pay off their mortgages more quickly.
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Las Vegas, Denver and Charlotte had the lowest percentage of homeowners with no mortgage. Las Vegas, hard hit by the housing crash, saw many of its homes go to foreclosure and those homes then go to all-cash investors. (Read More: Banks Pay Big for Robo-Signing…Again .)