Owning a home with a mortgage may give you a sense of financial security, but a new report by Roy Morgan has shown that 6.8% of people with a mortgage (311,000) in fact have hardly any real equity built up in their home.
In these cases, people’s homes were found to be worth the same, or even less than, the amount they still owed on their mortgage.
This is not a good situation to be in, because if property prices drop or you’re forced to sell, you could be left owing money to the bank even after the sale is complete.
According to the report, those most at risk are mortgage holders in Western Australia.
In Perth, property has been steadily losing value due to the slowdown in the resources industry. The latest CoreLogic dwelling price index has revealed that in the past 12 months the average home fell in value by 7%.
The latest Pain and Gain report also reflected this worrying trend, showing that about one third of house sales in Peth during the June quarter fetched a price below what the owners had originally paid.
And the Roy Morgan report estimates that 53,000 mortgage holders in Western Australia (9.2%) have homes worth the same as or less than the amount they still owe.
The situation is not so severe in New South Wales, particularly Sydney, where housing prices have increased by 10.2% in the past 12 months. Still, 5.1% of NSW mortgage holders (73,000) have little or no equity in their home.
The report noted that the rate at which prices are rising in New South Wales was “increasing the chance that the value of borrowers’ homes will outpace the amount owing on their mortgage’’.
The second-best performing state is Tasmania, where 6.1% (7,000) of mortgage holders have less or equal home equity. This is followed by Victoria (6.3% – 71,000), South Australia (6.7% – 23,000) and Queensland (7.5% – 68,000).
Homeowners who find themselves in the position of having little or no equity in their homes could be at “considerable risk”, according to Norman Morris of Roy Morgan – “particularly if home values fall or households are hit by unemployment”.
He also pointed out the increased level of risk if interest rates rise.
“Repayments would increase and home prices decline, with the potential to lower equity even further,’’ he said.
If you’re in the process of buying a home, the lesson to learn from all this data is that markets can (and probably will) change, and you should allow yourself some kind of buffer so you’re not left owing more than you own.