What does it mean to be free and clear of all mortgage debt? Relieved, relaxed, able to use income and/or retirement funds with more latitude for things beyond housing costs…you name it.

Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist with Lending Tree, an online marketplace for borrowers to shop for and compare mortgage loan offers, sees homeowners who are free and clear of all mortgage debt as being able to…”receive full benefits and see their wealth accumulate.”

Kapfidze added, “The Federal Reserve’s measurement of how much wealth these households (without mortgage debt) have in real estate equity has climbed from approximately $6T nine years ago to approximately $15TY in 2018.”

Which are the cities that have the largest share of homeowners without debt in the country? Lending Tree’s new study tells us.

15 Largest Cities Ranked By Percent of Free and Clear Homes

  1. Detroit 55%

This number one ranking is a bit deceiving. Many mortgage lenders in the area don’t offer mortgage

loans to homeowners here. They view the city as “too risky.”

  1. Miami 52%

This city is a top destination for foreign buyers who are often wealthy and who are often cash buyers.

  1. Las Vegas 48%

There is a high ratio of cash-ready buyers here.

  1. Birmingham 48%
  2. Tampa 45%
  3. Oklahoma City 45%
  4. San Diego 44%
  5. San Francisco 43%
  6. Orlando 43%
  7. Phoenix 42%
  8. Pittsburg 42%
  9. Kansas City 42%
  10. Memphis 42%
  11. Buffalo 42%
  12. Los Angeles 42%

Cities With Homeowners Who Are The Least Free and Clear

  1. Washington DC 23%
  2. Seattle 22%
  3. Seattle 22%

Six cities in California (San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento and Riverside) are among the top 20 in this ranking despite the relatively high home prices in the state. California’s property tax laws discourage homeowners from moving and therefore, these residents have long tenure in their homes. With that long tenure comes the opportunity to pay down mortgage debt.

Washington DC and Seattle have some of the highest priced homes in the country. Despite the abundance of high paying jobs in these two cities, homeowners have trouble buying their homes without having a mortgage.

Virginia Beach has one of the highest rates of military households and one of the highest shares of homeowners in the country. Typically, these are young homeowners who are young mortgage holders (primarily through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs) still paying off their mortgage debts.