Coronavirus recession won't be like the last one: CoreLogic

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Borrowers gained over $6 trillion in home equity since the Great Recession ended and the relative health of the housing market should stave off a coronavirus-induced collapse, according to CoreLogic's Home Equity Report.

Homeowners with mortgages — about 63% of all properties — saw a 6.5% equity bump in the opening quarter of 2020, totaling an annual increase of $590 billion. Eight years of rising home values has pushed equity up and helped drop the underwater mortgages share.

Negative equity declined to 3.4% of all loans or 1.8 million homes, down from 4.1% and 2.2 million a year ago, and 3.5% and 1.9 million in the fourth quarter. Compare that to the first quarter of 2010, when the economy started recovering from the housing bubble and underwater mortgages totaled 12.1 million properties, accounting for a 25.9% share.

"Many homeowners will experience a recession during their lifetime, and it is reasonable to compare the current recession to those in the past," Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in a press release. "But the comparison is not apples to apples — every recession is different."

"Primary drivers of the Great Recession were an overbuilt housing stock, risky mortgages and the collapse of home prices, creating a massive increase in negative equity that proved difficult to recover from," Martell said. "Today's housing environment has low vacancy and delinquency rates and a large home equity cushion. While the CoreLogic HPI forecasts a decline in home prices in the coming year, we can also expect the majority of homeowners to remain above water."

In the first quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained $9,300 worth of equity from the year before, which is a huge rise from $6,438 in the first quarter of 2019 — one of the smallest annual increases of the past three years.

Now that the impact of COVID-19 has hit the economy, many expect home prices to fall but not nosedive.

"The pandemic recession will likely lead to price declines in many areas during the next year and weaken home equity gains," Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a press release. "However, price declines will be far less than those experienced during the Great Recession, when the national CoreLogic Home Price Index fell 33% peak-to-trough. Our latest forecast shows the national index to have a peak-to-trough decline of 1.5%."

Home equity grew annually in 45 of the 50 states during the first quarter. Idaho homeowners led with an average increase of $24,400. Washington's $20,800 came next, trailed by Arizona's $19,900. Alaska broke near even and had the lowest equity growth. Gains of about $2,000 in Texas and $3,000 in Iowa followed as the smallest growths and no states had equity depreciation. Maine, Mississippi, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia had insufficient data regarding home values.

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Appraisals Housing market Home prices Coronavirus RMBS CoreLogic