Gen X Homeowners Lag Behind in Building Equity, Showing Scars from Housing Crash

Gen X homeowners bore the brunt of the housing crash, and it still shows a decade later as they lag behind in gaining equity in their homes, according to the new Zillow Home Equity Report.

Millennials have almost as much equity as the older Gen X homeowners, despite having had much less time to gain equity.

The Zillow Equity Report for the first quarter of 2017 tracks the home equity of more than 50 million homeowners who have a mortgage. The report, which will be released twice a year, tracks the debt that U.S. homeowners are carrying on their homes by age and location.

Highlights from the report:

  • The median homeowner with a mortgage has $78,683 in home equity. Homeowners who own their homes outright typically have $177,158 in home equity.
  • The median homeowner has a loan-to-value ratio of 62.2, or owes 62.2 percent of their home’s current value.
  • 75.7 percent of homeowners have at least 20 percent equity in their homes, enough to cover the costs of selling or refinancing their home.
  • Five percent of mortgaged homeowners are close to owning their homes free and clear.
  • 10.4 percent of mortgaged homeowners have negative equity. In the first quarter of 2012, 31.4 percent of homeowners were underwater.

Among mortgaged homeowners, the typical millennial (less than 35 years old) owes the bank about 76 percent of their home’s current value. The median Gen X (35 to 50 years old) homeowner owes 70 percent of their home’s value. Boomers (50-65 years old) owe about 56 percent of their home’s value, and silent generation (65 and older) homeowners with a mortgage owe 45 percent.

“Roughly half of American wealth is held in home equity,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “Paying off the home mortgage is a key step toward retirement for most Americans, and it’s clear from these results that Generation X is further from that goal than older generations because of the Great Recession. The good news is that home values are still growing relatively fast in most places, building up home equity for homeowners who rely on the investment they’ve made in their home.”

The difference in how much Gen X homeowners owe on their home loans is an example of how uneven the housing recovery has been across the country.

  • In Baltimore, which has seen a sluggish recovery, Gen X owners with a mortgage owe a median of 79 percent of their homes’ value. In Chicago, where homes are still 15 percent below the highs reached during the bubble, Gen X homeowners owe 77.3 percent of their homes’ value.
  • Gen X homeowners are doing particularly well in the Bay Area, where home values have grown about 75 percent over the past five years. San Jose is the only metro where mortgaged Gen X homeowners owe less than half of their homes’ value, and San Francisco homeowners are not far behind, owing 51.4 percent of their homes’ worth.
Metropolitan Area Percent of
Homes in
Equity, 2017 Q1
Ratio – All
Value Ratio –
Gen X
Ratio –
United States 10.4% 62.2 70.1 76.2
New York/Northern New Jersey 9.2% 54.3 65.7 68.9
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 5.6% 49.9 60.1 65.5
Chicago, IL 16.4% 68.6 77.3 76.5
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX N/A 54.1 58.7 67.7
Philadelphia, PA 11.4% 65.8 75.3 81.5
Houston, TX N/A 61.1 66.3 77.2
Washington, DC 12.1% 66.4 74.0 77.5
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL 9.9% 55.4 63.6 66.3
Atlanta, GA 12.2% 66.3 71.2 72.2
Boston, MA 6.3% 52.8 62.6 67.4
San Francisco, CA 3.6% 42.6 51.4 58.5
Detroit, MI 11.4% 60.5 67.1 65.3
Riverside, CA 10.1% 62.4 68.4 71.2
Phoenix, AZ 10.6% 65.8 72.2 73.8
Seattle, WA 6.5% 55.6 61.9 67.5
Minneapolis-St Paul, MN 7.2% 62.7 68.9 70.8
San Diego, CA 6.2% 57.0 64.6 70.1
St. Louis, MO 12.4% 67.5 75.1 77.9
Tampa, FL 9.0% 60.0 67.8 70.2
Baltimore, MD 13.8% 69.5 79.0 82.3
Denver, CO 4.8% 53.2 58.1 65.4
Pittsburgh, PA 7.9% 57.5 66.0 74.6
Portland, OR 4.2% 53.2 58.9 66.2
Charlotte, NC 8.0% 64.2 69.6 75.3
Sacramento, CA 7.1% 58.8 65.4 67.0
San Antonio, TX N/A 64.5 71.7 82.0
Orlando, FL 10.0% 62.1 68.7 69.9
Cincinnati, OH 9.7% 65.9 72.4 76.2
Cleveland, OH 13.4% 67.2 75.9 77.2
Kansas City, MO 12.0% 69.4 75.1 79.5
Las Vegas, NV 15.9% 70.7 75.0 74.6
Columbus, OH 8.7% 63.9 69.7 73.9
Indianapolis, IN 12.2% 71.1 76.2 81.3
San Jose, CA 2.8% 39.4 47.4 57.5
Austin, TX N/A 57.6 62.8 74.1


Zillow® is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help. In addition, Zillow operates an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau led by Zillow’s Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. Dr. Gudell and her team of economists and data analysts produce extensive housing data and research covering more than 450 markets at Zillow Real Estate Research. Zillow also sponsors the quarterly Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, which asks more than 100 leading economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists to predict the path of the Zillow Home Value Index over the next five years. Launched in 2006, Zillow is owned and operated by Zillow Group (NASDAQ:Z and ZG), and headquartered in Seattle.

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One Comment

  1. AvatarKeith Gumbinger

    What’s missing here is the timing of the home purchase by each group. GenX homebuyers most likely were among those who purchased homes in the housing boom of the last decade; Millennials most likely have only started purchasing homes en masse in recent years.

    As such, a GenX homeowner probably saw only some upside to the value of their home before property prices plummeted in 2008-2011, and many markets have only recently re-attained (or surpassed) previous price peaks. These buyers may have purchased properties at or near peak valuations, saw them lose considerable value, and only in the last few years have seen their equity stake reflated. Coupling this recent property price appreciation with the on-going pay down of outstanding principal balances over the last (perhaps) decade has again given them a considerable equity stake.

    The reverse is more likely true for a Millennial buyer. In most areas, property prices reached their nadir in 2011, and a Millennial buyer after that would have purchased a home at or near the bottom for prices. Since then, values have climbed sharply in many markets, bringing a near-instant equity stake for this group. There has been no downturn (so far) in prices to overcome in order to create a substantial equity position, even if the outstanding mortgage has been retired only slightly to date.

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