“One In Six Americans Are Underwater on Loans”: Horse Hockey!


I am so sick and tired of seeing that headline; it seems to be everywhere, in newspapers, on TV news tickers, on the local news, online. It’s freaking people out, and it’s just plain wrong. Here are some facts:

  1. Only 68 percent of Americans own homes
  2. 32 percent of Americans who do own homes have no mortgage at all
  3. The average time horizon for owning a home is 6 years

Okay, so now you see that the number of Americans “underwater” (implying the dramatic drowning of course) is considerably smaller. And if the average ownership time horizon is 6 years, then the bulk of Americans are not selling their homes right now, and therefore it really doesn’t matter all that much if the numbers on paper are a bit backwards.

I realize this is not a great argument to be making in light of how much on paper I happen to have lost this week in my 401K (breathe), but think about it really. If the potential sale price of your home is currently less than your mortgage amount, but you’re still able to pay your mortgage and you have no intention of moving, then the underwater aspect really doesn’t affect you.

    • Fitch Teleconference: U.S. Housing Starts & Sales to Drop Further in 2009

Yes, it takes away the possibility of taking money out of your home in the form of a home equity line of credit, but other than that, it changes nothing, other than of course your own personal confidence in your own personal fiscal well being. And I don’t mean to downplay that, but it does not, I repeat, does not imply, infer or even remotely predict that one in six borrowers are about to go into foreclosure.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com