Market Pulse – Mortgage-Fee Properties Give Local Economy A Cushion

Don Fenley 

Although real estate’s contribution to the overall Tri-Cities area economy has flagged from the early post-pandemic years, it still accounts for about 16% of the local economy. During the first quarter, that broke down to a little over $131 million.

But that’s not the only economic cushion housing affords to the local economy. Here’s an example on the national level from ResiClub Pro, “not only is 96% of the mortgaged debt in the U.S. fixed rate, but 38.5% of homeowners don’t have a mortgage at all.”

One reason some economists believe the U.S. economy has been more resilient than others is the greater buffering homeowners have from spiked interest rates. Unlike owners in the U.K. and Canada, most U.S. homeowners aren’t seeing payments adjusted to new market rates. “Additionally, the fact that many U.S. homeowners have no debt at all means that if they need to sell and buy a different home, they might be able to roll over the equity, but it in all cash and avoid spiked interest rates. At the same time they can avoid cutting back on discretionary spending and helping keep the overall economy warmer.”

That applies in spades here in the Tri-Cities where 51.9% of all owner-occupied properties are mortgage free. Actually, the number is higher when you add in the number of mortgage-free properties in Greene and Johnson counties to the Census Bureau’s Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area (CSA) count.

Here’s a drill-down on the most current share of mortgage-free households:

  • Carter – 57.4%
  • Greene – 50.4%
  • Hawkins – 51%
  • Johnson – 61.2%
  • Sullivan – 49.1%
  • Unicoi – 51.7%
  • Washington Co. TN – 44.1%
  • Scott Co, VA – 67.2%
  • Washington Co. VA p- 50.1%

Any way you look at it, real estate means a lot more to the local economy than is the other components that get more attention.

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at