Homeownership has been associated with positive social outcomes, and is also the largest source of wealth among homeowning households. In 2016, the median net worth among homeowners was $231,400, with housing wealth making up 85 percent of wealth (average net housing wealth was $197,500).
Housing wealth contributes positively to the homeowner’s and children’s economic condition, because home equity can be tapped for expenditures such as investing in another property (which can generate rental income), home renovation (which further increases the home value), a child’s college education, emergency or major life events, or expenses in retirement.
Housing wealth (or net worth or equity) is built up over time via the home price appreciation and the principal payments that the homeowner makes on the loan. The chart shows the change in housing wealth (equity) as of 2018 for a home buyer who purchased a typical single-family existing home in the United States 5, 10, 15, or 30 years ago. Over these holding periods, most of the wealth gains are from the appreciation in home values. For example, if one purchased a home five year ago (2013), a home buyer would have typically gained $79,488 in wealth (equity), of which $64,200, or 81 percent is from the home price appreciation ($197,400 in 2013 to $261,600 in 2018). Homeowners who move typically do so in 10 years, so a homeowner who bought a home 10 years ago (2008) would have $91,081 in home equity gains as of 2018). The longer the holding period, the larger the increase in wealth due to home price appreciation and the cumulative principal payments, which reduce the loan balance.
If you had purchased a home just five years ago in these metro areas, here are the typical gains in home equity that you have due to home price appreciation and the principal payments you’ve made:
Metro areas with home equity gains of $200,000 or over for a home purchased 5 years ago:
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara: $620, 410
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward: $393,561
Boulder, CO: $264,395
Anaheim-Sta. Ana-Irvine, CA: $218,773
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA: $216,613
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA: $205,659
Metro areas with lowest equity gains (loss) for a home purchased 5 years ago:
Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ: ($8,593)
New Jersey City-White Plains, NJ-NY: $3,336
Cumberland, MB-WV: $6,215
Trenton, NJ: $7943
Elmira, NY: $8,705
Use this data visualization to explore the typical increase in housing wealth across metro areas as of 2018 if you purchase a home 5, 10, 15, 30 years ago. These are typical gains and are illustrative of the magnitude of the wealth gains over time. Actual wealth gains will vary by property:
 Lawrence Yun and Nadia Evangelou, Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing, Realtor® University The Journal of the Center for Real Estate Studies; https://realtoru.edu/real-estate-studies/journal/
 Federal Reserve Board, 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances
 Brad Finkelstein, 7 reasons why consumers are tapping into home equity, The American Banker, June 26, 2018; https://www.americanbanker.com/7-reasons-why-homeowners-are-tapping-into-their-home-equity
 The price appreciation can be thought of as ‘capital gains’ while the principal payments can be thought of as a conversion from liquid asset (cash) to an illiquid asset (house).
 To be clear, these are changes in wealth or home equity between two time period or over n holding periods. If one wants the level of the home equity at a point in time, one has to add the down payment.
 These calculations are illustrative of the magnitude of the housing wealth gains; actual change in home equity will vary by home.
Using data from the 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers we can break down household composition, and the relationship it has to home purchasing choices.
Among all recent home buyers, 63 percent were married couples, 18 percent were single females, nine percent were single males, and eight percent were unmarried couples.
Four percent of recent buyers identified as gay or lesbian, and one percent identified as bisexual.
Among first-time buyers, 54 percent were married couples, and 67 percent of repeat buyers were married couples.
Among first-time buyers, 16 percent were unmarried couples, and five percent of repeat buyers were married couples.
Among all home buyers, 82 percent purchased a detached single-family home, eight percent purchased a townhouse/row house, four percent purchased an apartment or condo.
Eighty-seven percent of married couples, and 83 percent of unmarried couples purchased a detached single-family home.
Married couples were typically 45 years old with a household income of $106,300. They typically purchased a home that was a median of 2,070 sq. ft., for $289,000.
Unmarried couples were typically 34 years old with a household income of $88,800. They typically purchased a home that was a median of 1,630 sq. ft., for $219,000.
Single females were typically 54 years old with a household income of $61,400. They typically purchased a home that was a median of 1,550 sq. ft., for $189,000.
Single males were typically 52 years old with a household income of $73,200. They typically purchased homes that were a median of 1,590 sq. ft., for $215,000.
Fifteen percent of all buyers were influenced to choose their neighborhood based on the convenience to a vet or outdoor space for their pet. 20 percent of unmarried couples chose their neighborhood based on the convenience to a vet or outdoor space for their pet.
In 1981 when NAR first started tracking the data, the average age of a first-time homebuyer was 29. They made up 44 percent of all homebuyers. Sixty-eight percent of first-time buyers were married couples, 12 percent were single female and 13 percent were single male (seven percent were other).
In contrast, in 2018, the average age of a first-time homebuyer was 46 and they accounted for 33 percent of all homebuyers. Fifty-four percent were married couples, 18 percent were single female, 10 percent were single male, and 16 percent were unmarried couples (two percent were other).
In 1989, first-time buyers largely rented an apartment before they bought their home at 80 percent, and 15 percent lived with parents, relatives, or friends. In 2018, the share of first-time buyers that lived in an apartment before they bought their home slipped to 71 percent while the share of those that had been living with parents, relatives, or friends previous to buying rose to 23 percent.
Some homeowners opt to sell their residence without a real estate agent to get around paying a commission and make more of the profit. Forty-three percent of people (down from 48 percent last year) who sell without a real estate agent think that if they sell themselves, they’ll end up doing a little extra work in exchange for not paying a commission or closing fee. According to the research, however, what they actually get is a lot of time spent hustling to make the sale and a final selling price that is less than what the market can bear.
Do you have a lot of extra time to market your home and do all the work to meet and greet properly? Are you versed in local trends on the housing market and know the latest regulations for closing a sale? Do you have a list of potential buyers ready to view your home? Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold in 2017 were sold with the assistance of an experienced real estate professional, according to the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Most leave it to the professionals, yet there is still a small group of people who prefer to do it themselves. Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves, known as For-Sale-By-Owners (FSBO) home sales. That number has steadily declined since 2004 where only 82 percent of all home sales were agent-assisted and 14 percent of homes were listed FSBO. FSBO sales are currently at an all-time low since data collection began in 1981.
Picture This: are you a single female seller, early sixties, selling a single-family home or mobile in a suburban or rural area? If so, you might want to consider working with a real estate agent.
Let’s break it down further. Thirty-eight percent of all FSBOs—that’s only three percent of the total home sales in 2017—were homes sold to people where the buyer knew the seller selling to a friend, neighbor, or family member. However, 62 percent of FSBO home sales—five percent of total homes sold—were sold by the owner to someone they didn’t know. According to the 2017 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile report, sellers cited creating yard signs, listing their homes online on multiple websites, spreading the news through word of mouth, putting out classified ads, displaying on social media, hosting an open house, and registering with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. That’s a lot of work just on marketing and finding potential buyers.
The time it takes to sell a home on the market was a median of two weeks for FSBO sellers and three weeks for agent-assisted homes, but again many of the sales are arms-length transactions. Forty percent of all homes were sold in less than two weeks last year. Most FSBO homes sales were located rural areas (22 percent), urban area or central cities (19 percent), or small towns (16 percent). Sixty-six percent of FSBO sales were detached single-family homes, compared to 81 percent of all homes sold. Thirteen percent were mobile or manufactured homes, compared to three percent of all homes sold. FSBO sellers typically had lower incomes than those who worked with an agent. The median income of all FSBO sellers was $86,500 and for those who sold only through an agent was $102,900. Those who sell themselves have the perception that they have less money to pay for assistance when selling their home and opt to go it alone.
As it turns out, FSBO make less money on their home sales than buyers who work with a real estate agent. According to the report, the median selling price for all FSBO homes was $190,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number plunges to the median selling price of $160,300. For homes sold with the assistance of an agent, the median selling price was $250,000 ̶ that’s $60,000-90,000 more for the typical home sale. According to NAR’s 2017 Member Profile, seventy-five percent of all real estate agents get paid by a percentage commission split between two agents representing the buyer and seller.
Talk to an agent and find out what they suggest for the commission and then do the math yourself. The closing price for the agent-assisted seller is likely going to be way above an FSBO. In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall. Based on these closing numbers, why not save yourself time and make more money by working with a real estate agent that is excited to sell your home?
In a monthly survey of REALTORS®, respondents are asked “Compared to the same month last year, how would you rate the past month’s traffic in neighborhood(s) or area(s) where you make most of your sales?” Respondents rate buyer traffic as “Stronger” (100), “Stable” (50), or “Weaker” (0), and the responses are compiled into a diffusion index. An index greater than 50 means that more respondents reported “stronger” than “weaker” conditions.
The chart below shows buyer traffic conditions in March–May 2018 compared to conditions one year ago, according to the May 2018 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey. REALTORS® reported that buyer conditions were “stable” to “very strong” compared to conditions one year ago, except in Alaska. REALTORS® reported that demand was “very strong” in May 2018 compared to the same month last year in in the District of Columbia and in 26 states, led by Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Utah, New Hampshire, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Colorado, Indiana, Washington, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.
Housing demand is in part driven by population and employment growth. During 2010‒2017, the West and South region states had the fastest population growth, led by Texas (12.6%), North Dakota (12.3%), Utah (12.2%), Colorado (11.5%), Nevada (11.0%), and Washington (10.1%), Arizona (9.8%), Idaho (9.5%), and Oregon (8.1%).
The states in the West and South regions also had the strongest employment growth in May 2018 compared to one year ago. Nationally, employment rose 1.6 percent, but employment in these states rose above the national average, led by Utah (3.6%), Washington (2.9%), Idaho (2.9%), Colorado (2.8%), Arizona (2.8%), Texas (2.8%), Florida (2.2%), and West Virginia (2.6%).
Strong demand in these states has bolstered home prices, especially in California, which has 11 of the top 20 priciest metro areas in May 2018. Scroll down the interactive data table visualization below to check out the priciest metro areas in May 2018.
 In generating the indices, NAR uses data for the last three surveys to have close to 30 observations. Small states such as AK, ND, SD, MT, VT, WY, WV, DE, and D.C., may have fewer than 30 observations. For graphical purposes, index values from 25.01 to 45 are labeled “Weak,” values of 45.01 to 55 are labeled “Stable,” values of 55.01 to 75 are labeled “Strong,” and values greater than 75 are labeled “Very Strong.”
Here is some insight on how Americans can invest their tax return and how first-time home buyers may look to invest long term. One of the major hurdles for potential home buyers is the downpayment. With a sizable tax refund, the average American would have a sizeable or partial downpayment depending on which region or market you live in. The estimated average tax refund is expected to be $2,840 for most Americans this year, which is slightly down from $2,895 last year. Some of the main recommendations on what to do if you receive a tax return are save, invest, splurge, pay down debt, donate or fund a business idea. The younger generation is working to overcome debt, lack of savings and rising home prices.
For first-time buyers, the median downpayment ticked down to 5% in 2017 from 6% in 2016.
First-time home buyers made up 22% of all buyers.
For first-time home buyers, 13 percent cited their most difficult step in the home buying process was saving for a downpayment.
For first-time home buyers, 25% said saving for a downpayment was the most difficult step in the process. It took 32% of first-time home buyers more than two years to save up for a downpayment however, 29% were able to come up with a downpayment within six months or less and that is where the tax refund can help.
For first-time home buyers, 78% used their savings to make a down payment while 25% used a gift from a relative or friend. The third most used source of a downpayment was sale of stocks, a loan from a relative or their tax return at 7 percent. All buyers made up 4 percent and repeat buyers made up 2 percent who used their tax return.
With improved job markets and rising wages, first-time buyers could apply the tax refund of approximately of $2,840 to boost their downpayment when entering a housing market, which has experienced very tight inventories and rising prices. By state, Connecticut on average is expected to have the highest tax return at $3,126 while Vermont may have the lowest return at $2,254. Below you can find your state to estimate your return.