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Study: Tenn. among leaders for homeowners with paid-off mortgages

10:25 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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One-third of Tennessee homeowners own their homes free and clear, one of the highest rates in the country, according to a recent analysis of mortgage data by Zillow.

Nashville-area counties had the lowest rates in the state, the analysis shows.

Tennessee's 34 percent free-and-clear ownership rate tied for ninth-highest among U.S. states and the District of Columbia, the real estate website said.

West Virginia led the nation at 45 percent, while D.C. ranked last at 20 percent - just below Nevada, at 21 percent.

In all, 29 percent of U.S. homeowners don't owe anything on their homes. That's 20.6 million homes, not including those owned as rentals or investments.

A deeper look reveals mortgage-free ownership rates are higher in rural parts of Tennessee and lower in more-urban areas, especially Nashville - home of seven of the 10 counties with the lowest rates.

Rutherford County was at the bottom, at 21 percent, followed by Montgomery (22 percent) and Williamson (23 percent). Davidson stood at 25 percent, Sumner and Wilson counties each was at 27 percent and Robertson's rate was 28 percent.

At the other end, at least half of homeowners in 15 Tennessee counties - led by Perry County at 58 percent - owned their homes free and clear.

Other findings from Zillow's review of data from credit reporter TransUnion:

Those aged 65 and older were most likely to be mortgage-free, which was expected because they typically had more time to pay off their note and were more likely to have taken out a smaller mortgage.

Areas with lower median home values had higher mortgage-free ownership rates, and vice-versa.

While 44 percent of free-and-clear homeowners had a VantageScore credit rating between 800 and 900, only 16 percent of those with a score of 900 or above were mortgage-free, possibly because they opted not to pay it off and diversify their portfolios to guard against falling home values.

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