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From underwater to “equity-poor”: Why the housing market isn’t recovering faster (TIME)

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Rates on 30-year mortgages are at record lows, but the static housing market doesn’t reflect that. The problem is that a key-sector of the market referred to as trade-up buyers—those who go from starter homes to pricier homes—are “equity poor.” This means they have less than 20% equity in their homes. This is key because lenders are generally requiring 20% down to get a loan. CoreLogic says roughly 45% of U.S. homeowners are equity poor, which includes homeowners who are underwater. However, 700,000 homeowners who had been underwater in the last quarter of 2011 moved into the black thanks to cash investors gobbling up cheap homes, thus increasing prices. Equity-poor homeowners are spread throughout different price points for this to be of help.