The data on mortgage status were obtained from Housing Questions 19a and 20a in the 2009 American Community Survey. The questions were asked at owner-occupied units. "Mortgage" refers to all forms of debt where the property is pledged as security for repayment of the debt, including deeds of trust; trust deeds; contracts to purchase; land contracts; junior mortgages; and home equity loans.
A mortgage is considered a first mortgage if it has prior claim over any other mortgage or if it is the only mortgage on the property. All other mortgages (second, third, etc.) are considered junior mortgages. A home equity loan is generally a junior mortgage. If no first mortgage is reported, but a junior mortgage or home equity loan is reported, then the loan is considered a first mortgage.
In most data products, the tabulations for "Selected Monthly Owner Costs" and "Selected Monthly Owner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income" usually are shown separately for units "with a mortgage" and for units "not mortgaged." The category not mortgaged is comprised of housing units owned free and clear of debt.
Mortgage status provides information on the cost of home ownership. When the data is used in conjunction with mortgage payment data, the information determines shelter costs for living quarters. These data can be use in the development of housing programs aimed to meet the needs of people at different economic levels. The data also serve to evaluate the magnitude of and to plan facilities for condominiums, which are becoming an important source of supply of new housing in many areas.
Since 1996, the American Community Survey questions have been the same.
Data on mortgage status in the American Community Survey can be compared to previous ACS and Census 2000 mortgage status data. For Census 2000, tables for both total owner-occupied housing units and specified owner-occupied housing units were released, thus comparisons can be made only when comparing the same universes between the two data sets.