WASHINGTON — The biggest story in American real estate in 2013 hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, so let's shout this out: Homeowners' net equity holdings soared by $2.2 trillion between the third quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of this year, according to new data collected by the Federal Reserve.
This is a record rebound for a 12-month period. And it's crucially important in personal financial terms for hundreds of thousands of owners who've been underwater on their mortgages for years. They now have options they didn't have before: They can sell their homes and not have to bring money to the closing. They may be able to borrow against their equity to help pay for college tuitions, home improvements and other purposes. They may be able to refinance their mortgages without having to use a government-aided program.
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