In a country ravaged by the housing crisis, a hefty chunk of homeowners—some 29.3%—have escaped the mortgage burden entirely, a new report by Zillow finds. A great deal of the 20.6 million Americans who own their homes outright are retirees: 77.6% of people 85 and older fully own their abodes, as do 62.7% of people 74 to 84. But plenty of the mortgage-free are also very young: Some 34.5% of homeowners ages 20 to 24 don't have mortgages, the according to Zillow's analysis.
The big cities with the highest proportions of homeowners without mortgages are Pittsburgh, Tampa, New York, Cleveland, and Miami, the Los Angeles Times reports. The lowest proportions are found in Washington, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Denver, and Charlotte. Expect more homeowners to be mortgage-free in the future, with baby boomers getting older and the credit crisis driving "more and more people to think that the best way they can prepare for retirement is with no mortgage at all," says an expert. (Read more housing market stories.)