Americans Are Using Their Houses as ATMs Again

With home prices up 8 percent year-over-year in December, according to the latest reading from CoreLogic, homeowners are regaining home equity at a fast clip—1.4 million borrowers rose above water on their mortgages through the end of September. That number likely increased as price appreciation accelerated toward the end of the year.

Does this mean a return to the reckless equity withdrawals of the housing bubble? Likely not.

“I would guess that most of the current home equity line borrowing is quite prudent. We know that it is being very conservatively underwritten with plenty of equity,” said Guy Cecala, editor of Inside Mortgage Finance.

(Read More: Housing Already Shows Signs of a New Bubble.)

While it is too early to say exactly what borrowers are spending this new cash on, anecdotal evidence shows borrowers are largely sinking the money back into their homes.

“We are seeing more responsible uses today, like home improvements, education expenses or other major expenses that would be a more responsible use of a customer’s home equity,” Blackwell said.

The average home equity line in October of 2012 was just below $90,000 compared to October 2006, when lines averaged just over $100,000, according to Equifax.

Article source: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100446233

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