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Cashing out home equity

Below is an interesting chart from the WSJ showing total home equity cashed out in the United States by quarter. What is clear is that the US is nowhere near its pre-2008 peak in terms of total dollars. However, if you look at the percentage of homeowners who refinanced their home in 2018 and took out cash at a higher interest rate, it was nearly 60% of all refis. This is up in the pre-2008 territory and it’s about 3x more than the average from 2009 to 2017.

Now, you could argue that this is a fairly rationale outcome after a long period of economic expansion and home price appreciation. And interest rates were, on average, even lower in the 2012 to 2016 period. But, the WSJ posits that this could be a signal that people simply need the cash — which is why the majority are willing to accept a higher interest rate. Here is another chart from a different WSJ article:

Housing debt (mortgage balances) has come way down since 2008, but non-housing debt has come way up and now exceeds that of the former. Non-housing consumer debt rose by about $1 trillion in real dollars from 2013 to 2019, principally driven by student loans and car loans. Noteworthy is the fact that student loans are rising fairly linearly (along with dramatically), whereas car loans and credit card debt seem to follow the overall economy.

When people are feeling richer (and confident about their economic prospects) they go out and buy things, like cars.

Charts: WSJ

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