In 2019, the average American household held $75,968.96 in mortgage debt, home equity loans, and HELOCs with balances secured by their primary residence. The median household held $0 – although the homeownership rate is well over 60%.
The average household also held $9,562.92 in debt secured by other residential property – think second and vacation homes. (Only 4.7% of households reported that type of debt).
Let's dive into residential home debt in this post and talk about the averages and summary statistics for a few types of breakdowns.
Mortgage and Home Debt Statistics in America
As I mentioned in the intro, most residential debt consists of mortgages, home equity loans, and HELOCs – home equity lines of credit.
And as I mentioned – homeownership is common. And so is home debt – 42.1% of households held at least some secured by a primary residence.
For the most timely statistics, the New York Federal Reserve reports quarterly on overall numbers.
In Q3 2020, the United States stood on the precipice of $10 trillion in mortgage debt. Perhaps surprisingly, only .7% of borrowers were more than 90 days – 3 months – late on their mortgage.
That's a bit of a trick statement, however. During the pandemic, many borrowers asked their bank for forbearance – the ability to push out payments for breathing room.
According to Fannie Mae, including forbearance would put 90+ day delinquencies at 2.87% of all mortgage loans in December 2020. Compare that to 5.59% of loans in February 2010 (and as you recall, that wasn't due to forbearance.)
Households are hurting, as you can see in the forbearance numbers. However, mortgages appear to be holding up just fine overall.
Mortgage Debt Statistics by Percentile
Of course, some households hold much more mortgage debt than others. Like the rest of our debt statistics, mortgage debt (and other home debt) is heavily weighted to some households.
Here's how debt secured by a primary residence broke down in the 2019 SCF:
|Primary Home Debt Percentile||Primary Home Debt|
How popular are large mortgages?
Currently, the US Government allows you to write off mortgage interest secured by your primary home – up to a point [PDF].
Here's how many households hold a primary home mortgage at some chosen breakpoints (there are roughly 128 million households in America):
|Home Debt Amount||Households with Amount|
Those numbers don't necessarily mean households aren't taking out larger mortgages. Remember: these stats are a snapshot of debt at a point in time; some households already paid off a higher balance.
But yes: large mortgages with a balance that approach or exceed the cut-off threshold for a tax write-off are quite uncommon.
Mortgage Debt by Generation
Another factor that affects homeownership – and debt – is age. And there are two angles here – younger folks own fewer homes, but because of the popularity of long-dated mortgages tend to have more debt.
Here's what that looks like:
|Generation||Average||25th Percentile||Median||75th Percentile||Percentage with Debt|
And here's the age breakdown I used for generations (as of their survey in late 2019 or early 2020):
- Millennial (18-37 years old)
- Gen X (38-54)
- Baby Boomer (55-74)
- Silent (75-94)*
*There are only 9 'real' surveys of Greatest Generation households in the dataset, so they were omitted from the home debt stats
Mortgage and Home Debt by Income Bracket
As with other types of debt, you find very interesting trends when you split up households by their income bracket. (See our household income research here).
With my chosen HHI splits, here are primary home secured debt statistics:
|Income Percentile (%)||25% Debt||50% Debt||75% Debt||Average|
As you can see, everything lines up nearly (due to 0-19.9%) perfectly – more income means more mortgage.
There are many factors here – indeed, mortgage interest is a good tax break, but houses are also more expensive where there are clusters of higher-paying jobs.
Home and Mortgage Debt in America Methodology
The Federal Reserve SCF's 2019 survey lends us the microdata to do all the demographic breakdowns. And a technical note – "households" are actually "Primary Economic Units" or PEUs:
"...the PEU consists of an economically dominant single individual or couple (married or living as partners) in a household and all other individuals in the household who are financially interdependent with that individual or couple.Federal Reserve SCF Data Codebook, 2019
Regardless, it's close – and the numbers give us a pretty good idea about the distribution of home and mortgage debt in America.