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- About 1.13 million metro Miami area homeowners have $122.2 billion in equity they can tap at affordable rates for home improvement projects or to pay off high-interest debt
- Home values in the metro Miami market have doubled since 2011, bringing average “tappable equity” per home to $108,000
- Cashing out home equity without comparing actual mortgage interest rates could cost homeowners $13,000 or more in unnecessary interest charges
Rising home values mean more than 1 million homeowners in and around Miami can tap the equity they’ve built in their homes to finance home improvement projects at affordable interest rates, or pay off high-interest debt like credit cards or student loans.
With home values up 100% from their December, 2011 bottom, these homeowners now have an average of $108,000 in “tappable equity.” That’s the amount of cash they can access while still retaining an ownership stake of at least 20% in their homes.
Although interest rates are once again on the rise, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards, and a growing number of homeowners are tapping their equity through cash-out mortgage refinancing.
But research by Freddie Mac shows most borrowers take out a mortgage without getting actual rates from multiple lenders, putting them at risk of paying lenders thousands in unnecessary interest charges.
Even a quarter point interest rate reduction on a typical $250,000 30-year mortgage refinance can save a Miami area homeowner more than $13,000 over the life of the loan.
How Miami stacks up to other markets
All told, there’s $229 billion in tappable equity in Florida’s top five markets. Homeowners in the metro Miami area have a greater amount of total equity on tap ($122.2 billion) than any market in Florida, including Tampa ($39.6 billion), Orlando ($32.8 billion) and Jacksonville ($19.2 billion). Homeowners in the metro Naples area, which includes Marco Island, have a greater amount of average tappable equity per home, however — $172,000.
Looking at the top 50 U.S. markets for tappable equity, Miami ranks 11th in the nation, ahead of markets like Atlanta, Houston and Denver (see story, “What Americans Should Know Before Cashing out $6 Trillion in Home Equity”). That’s largely due to the recent surge in home values.
Since hitting a low of $136,800 during the housing downturn, Zillow estimates the median home value in and around the metro Miami area has climbed by 100%, to $274,000. That’s an average gain of $137,200 per home, boosting tappable equity to $108,000, according to a separate analysis by mortgage data aggregator Black Knight.
The metro Miami area, which encompasses 5,070 square miles and includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, is home to 6.16 million people. Although many homes in the area remain affordable, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some pricier neighborhoods.
The 10 priciest housing markets in the metro Miami area
- Fisher Island ($3,064,800)
- Gulf Stream ($1,763,000)
- Palm Beach ($1,103,400)
- Key Biscayne ($1,067,800)
- Pinecrest ($966,400)
- Bal Harbour ($953,200)
- Ocean Ridge ($799,300)
- Coral Gables ($761,500)
- Southwest Ranches ($672,900)
- Surfside ($661,000)
Estimated median home values as of Sept. 30, 2018. Source: Zillow Home Value Index.
When unemployment soared during the 2007-2009 recession, metro Miami home prices plateaued, rather than plummeted. After the jobless rate peaked at 8.9% at the end of 2010 and began to fall, home values began a steady upward climb.
Tapping equity responsibly
It’s important to note that falling unemployment and rising home prices doesn’t mean homeowners don’t have to worry about ups and downs in the economy. Pulling too much cash out of a home can put homeowners at higher risk of foreclosure in a downturn.
But homeowners who keep at least a 20% stake in their homes when refinancing have enough of an “equity cushion” that lenders typically won’t require them to obtain private mortgage insurance.
Undertaken responsibly, a cash-out refinancing can provide homeowners with an affordable source of funding for home improvement projects or other big-ticket expenses like college or unexpected medical bills. Many homeowners are also tapping equity in their home to get rid of high-interest credit card or student loan debt.Last year, U.S. homeowners accessed $92.1 billion in home equity through cash-out mortgage refinancing ($69.7 billion) or refinancing to pay down a second mortgage or home equity line of credit ($22.4 billion). That’s more than double the $42.5 billion in equity tapped through 2012 mortgage refinancings.
How to compare mortgage rates
For homeowners who are thinking about cashing out some of their equity by refinancing, it pays to compare mortgage rates.
Until recently, it’s been quite a chore to do that online. Today, there are three main avenues for exploring mortgage rates online:
- Single-lender websites
- Traditional rate comparison sites
- Modern mortgage marketplace
Some single-lender websites that facilitate “quickie mortgages” have reduced the hassle of applying for a loan. But they don’t provide information on rates available from other lenders, and may even discourage consumers from shopping for a mortgage.
The main goal of many traditional rate comparison sites is to convert consumers into “leads” and sell them to lenders. Since the rates they generate are often based on self-reported credit scores and little or no underwriting is performed, they can be misleading.
Credible.com is a modern mortgage marketplace that’s integrated with credit bureaus and lenders, so consumers can request actual rates from top mortgage lenders. Using Credible, consumers can:
- Compare actual rates in 3 minutes (not ranges or estimates)
- Shop and close “on platform,” like booking an airline ticket or buying essentials on Amazon
- Save time and avoid frustration with streamlined, digital origination process
- Consult with Credible’s licensed loan officers if needed
While strong home equity growth presents an opportunity for many homeowners to meet financial goals like paying down costlier debt or improving their homes, they should make sure they’re not overpaying when they refinance their mortgages.