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U.S. housing market continues to break new ground, report shows

Rising equity has driven a steady increase in the total value of the U.S. housing market over the past few years, while the much-anticipated 2016 decline in refinancing volume hasn’t yet been reflected in numbers posted by the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) over the first two months of the year.

Those are a few of the housing-market facts reflected in a March report issued by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center. The report, called Housing Finance at a Glance, produced monthly since October 2013, is packed with more than 60 tables and graphs on the housing-finance market.

The total value of the nation’s housing market stood at $23.2 trillion as of fourth-quarter 2015. That figure includes total debt and mortgages of some $10 trillion and household equity of $13.2 trillion, according to the report.

On the refinancing side of the market, total agency issuance reached $174.6 billion over the first two months of this year, up from $135.6 billion for the same two months in 2015. The strong refinancing performance so far this year is attributed to recent slight declines in mortgage interest rates, according to the Urban Institute. In February, refinances represented slightly more than half of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s business.

Meanwhile, according to the Housing Finance at a Glance report, the share of the nation’s homes with negativity equity declined to 8.5 percent as of fourth-quarter 2015, down from a post-recession high of about 25 percent. In addition, rising home prices, which are up 37 percent since the post-bubble low point in 2009, have helped drive down the volume of sour loans. The share of loans 90 days past due or in foreclosure stood at 3.4 percent as of fourth-quarter 2015, down from 4.5 percent for the same quarter the prior year.

The Urban Institute report also notes that GSE risk sharing is “going strong,” with mortgage risk now being shared with private investors for 28 percent of Freddie Mac’s portfolio and 18 percent of Fannie Mae’s book of business. The GSEs to date have shifted some $27 billion in risk from taxpayers to private investors, the report notes. 

Questions? Contact Bill Conroy at (800) 297-6061 or


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