Vermont has the highest percentage of 'equity rich' homes in the nation

March 1, 2021 - A recent report by ATTOM, a property data analysis firm, found that Vermont leads the nation in the percentage of mortgaged homes that are termed “equity rich”, based upon 4th Quarter 2020 figures. 

Equity rich refers to the percentage of homes where the mortgage on the home is 50% or less of the estimated market value of the home. The more homes that owe less than half their value, the better. Vermont leads the nation with almost 48% of its mortgaged homes fitting this category.

Why is that? What is it about Vermont, or Vermonters, that makes us so relatively property rich? Is it only because of the surge in demand for Vermont real estate that we experienced last year, driving a remarkable surge in single family home values, with monthly annual increases  averaging between 20 - 26% from August to December?  We know Vermont was in demand last year from people wanting a safe haven from COVID and urban unrest, which Vermont appeared to be (until our case positive numbers rose in November), resulting in the highest percentage of inbound moves to the state vs. outbound in the nation (Bloomberg, “Vermont leads the nation in Inbound Moves” September 2, 2020). 

But would home value appreciation alone explain why Vermont homeowners were propelled to the top of the list?  After all, many other states also enjoyed massive appreciation in 2020 as well.  Or is there something else more intrinsically unique about Vermont?


The Equity Rich study got us thinking about the role Picket Fence Preview may have played in this.  For 28 years, Picket Fence Preview has enabled Vermonters to sell by owner through its magazines and website. Especially in a small state like Vermont, word gets around fast. As a result, Vermont likely has the highest percentage of FSBO sales in the nation. 

Since no rationale or mechanism was offered in the Equity Rich study, we will take the opportunity to suggest one: The Picket Fence Effect. 

The Picket Fence Effect is simple. If a 6% commission is removed from a real estate transaction, as would be in a Picket Fence for-sale-by-owner sale, then there is more money available to the principals. Whether this money is spent, invested or put into the new home doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays in the pockets of the principals. Clearly, the more equity that sellers retain from property sales, the more money they have to put into their next property purchase.  

“Be Smart, Save Your Equity!” was the headline of our premiere issue back cover ad in 1993.  This message remained prominent in all Picket Fence Preview promotional and marketing material, particularly in its first decade of business.

Twenty-eight years of educating and enabling Vermonters to sell by owner has a major ripple effect. We know we have a large, loyal following in Vermont with many, many repeat Picket Fence homesellers selling multiple properties. Once someone has sold by owner, they usually are a convert for life. The benefit of learning how to sell FSBO is not a one-time thing, it's a lifetime thing. Realizing how much money you've saved in commission fees when you walk away from the closing table provides a sense of satisfaction and pride that people remember! And the financial benefit just compounds each time you're able to avoid paying a seller's commission fee.

So, congratulations to all the Vermonters who’ve benefitted over the years from selling by owner!  Collectively, you’ve made a big difference in the wealth of our state. We’re proud of Vermont for having earned the distinction of the most equity rich state, and Picket Fence is proud to be a part of it!