At the end of the 1970s, '80s and '90s, homeowners in many areas cashed in big profits when they sold. This enabled them to trade up to a bigger home, sometimes in a better neighborhood. Homeowners used their homes as piggy banks through the use of home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) to buy cars, pay for vacations and medical bills, renovate their homes, and pay for college educations and retirement. The recent housing recession brought a halt to this as home values dropped 30 percent or more, depending on location, wiping out equity for some and leaving many who bought with a low cash down payment with negative equity. More than 24 percent of homeowners in the U.S. today have a mortgage value that exceeds the market value of their homes. 2012 may be a pivotal point in the housing market. The decline in home prices has subsided and prices are actually moving higher in some markets. Buyers, instead of being reticent to buy a home that may lose value, are now anxious to buy ...
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