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.
With rates rising and home price growth starting to slow, I started to consider how much income is used towards housing in this current economic climate. Mortgage rates are trending upwards to near the highs of 2011 at 4.98 percent, home prices are still rising but at a slower pace, and the median income has been steadily rising although an even more modest pace than house prices. These factors go into how much of a person’s income goes towards housing expenditures and whether housing is a burden for potential homebuyers. This blog will highlight some of the factors and show states and regions where housing is less of a financial burden.
Home Price vs Median Family Incomes
Home prices since 2000 started to outpace incomes but started to turn towards the end of 2007, until home prices plummeted during the Great Recession. In 2008, incomes grew making it favorable for potential homeowners to buy a home. It took home prices about 4 years to recover, beginning in 2012. Around 2014 home price growth began to bloom and once again, prices started to outpace incomes. This pace has continued until recently, as home price growth has slowed making owning a home affordable. As of the second quarter of 2018, family incomes have increased by 52 percent since 2000, while housing prices have increased by 95 percent, or nearly doubled the level in 2000.
Payment to Income and Mortgage Rates
Let us look at the amount of money homeowners had to commit from their income to be able to afford a home. In 2000, when interest rates were 7.90 percent, homeowners had to spend about 19.6 percent of their income to be able to afford a home. In 2006 when rates were around 6.50 percent, homeowners had to spend 22 and up to 24 percent of their income on a home. In the wake of the Great Recession in 2009-2010, mortgage rates started to fall, so the share of income that went to paying a mortgage declined. In 2013 when rates were down to 3.47 percent, the mortgage payment on a median priced home was 11 percent of the median family income, putting less pressure on household incomes. Since that time rates have continued to decline, much to the benefit of potential homeowners. Anything above 30 percent is considered burdensome on households, but below that range would be typically affordable. On a regional level, the West requires a higher portion of your income, which has eclipsed the 35 percent mark. The Midwest, being the most affordable region, requires the least percentage of median family incomes. The Midwest started around 15 percent and, at times, dipped below 10 percent and is currently hovering back around 15 percent.
Payment to Income Ratio
A ratio between 2.5 and 4 is normal and healthy price to income ratio for the housing market. As of August 2018, the median price of existing homes sold was 3.5 percent of the median family income. The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) produced a map showing the US home price to income ratios. The ratios range from under two to over eight. As the map below illustrates, costal markets have much higher ratios, indicating significantly higher home prices compared with incomes. The West Coast region has affordability issues, with several areas posting ratios above eight, including San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Francisco metropolitan area. Small pockets in the Northeast reach above five, mostly clustered around New York City and Boston. The Miami/ South Florida Region also posts low affordability. In comparison, The Midwest region has ratios in the 2-3 range, in line with historical averages.
Jobs Generated vs GDP Growth Rate
The Gross domestic product (GDP) has hovered around 3 percent and has had to withstand the tech bubble, wars and several crises. In 2009, both jobs and GDP took a dive but rebounded the following year. GDP and jobs have grown solidly after the Great Recession. Unemployment has been below 6 percent ever since 2014, which is good for economic progress and potential homebuyers.
Even with rising rates and higher home prices, potential homebuyers have plenty of reason to join the market. Real Estate is still affordable in several states and regions. The job market is strong, GDP is at a healthy level and consumer confidence is high. New homes and existing inventory figures are now improving, although still modestly, but the increase in inventory is helping tame price growth.
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?
This blog was originally published on June 29, 2017. It has since been updated to reflect new data.
Consumers who are seriously in the home buying and home selling market should be mindful of a variety of competing home price estimators. Solely relying on just one price estimate is likely to skew the views of what a particular property will actually transact for. When it comes to online home value estimates, however, the number one caveat for consumers is that these estimates are not a substitute for formal appraisals, comparative market analyses, and the in-depth expertise of real estate professionals. Nonetheless, it is important to know the different sources of Automated Valuation Models or AVMs and home value estimates available online, so that members can help clients and potential clients understand these estimates in their proper context.
Where are these home value estimates coming from? The prevalence of technology can give anyone more access to a broad spectrum of information on the internet. In real estate, access to property details and values is easier due partly to low-cost immense computing power. AVMs spit out a price for a property based on computer algorithms and calculations that take different sets of property data and look for patterns and relationships between property value and the input data. There are websites that will have a home value estimate available by just searching an address, while others may provide an estimate only upon request.
The most popular sources of home value estimates online are those that use AVMs. These estimates have varying levels of accuracies and may not take into account the unique qualities of a home, a neighborhood, and local markets. The main sources of AVM estimates are:
Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®): RPR® has two home value estimates, their AVM estimate and the Realtors Valuation Model® (RVM®) estimate. The difference between the two is that RVM® uses the same data as the AVM plus Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Data. Both AVM and RVM® show the accuracy level of the estimate by giving estimate ranges and confidence scores. This resource is available for REALTORS® only and allows a significant amount of expert customization, making it a useful tool for members, especially when working with well-researched clients.
REALTOR.com®: Realtor.com® uses tax assessment records, recent sale prices of comparable properties, and other factors to estimate home values. This estimate is free and publicly available.
Redfin: Redfin is a web-based real estate brokerage that gives the Redfin estimate for the property, which is based on market, neighborhood, and home-specific data, including MLS data on recently sold homes. Redfin cites that their estimates for properties currently on the market are more accurate than estimates for off-market properties. This estimate is free and publicly available.
HouseCanary: HouseCanary has two main services: valuations and forecasting. Their estimates use property level data from public records and the MLS. Their accuracy will vary across markets depending on the availability of data. This estimate is available with subscription to their services.
Homes.com: Homes.com’s estimate mainly uses public records. They test and benchmark the accuracy of their estimates. This estimate is free and publicly available.
Zillow: Zillow has the Zestimate, which is their home value estimate for properties and is computed using public and user-submitted data. Their estimates have different accuracy levels depending on the data of the property and location. This estimate is free and publicly available.
Eppraisal.com: Eppraisal.com uses property records, home sales data, and local market data for their estimates. Their accuracy depends on the accuracy and completeness of public data. This estimate is free and publicly available.
Trulia: The estimate from Trulia is likely to be very similar to Zillow’s zestimate since it is part of the same Zillow Group. Having a separate Trulia price estimate is more a marketing gimmick to give the impression to consumers that there is more competition, though it is just the same company trying to establish a greater market power, hence the ability to extract a higher fee from real estate professionals.
There are also websites that provide home value estimates by request only or estimates using user inputs: ForSaleByOwner.com, GuaranteedSale.com, HomeFacts.com, HomeLight.com, HomeValues.com, SmartAlto.com, ValuemyHouse.com, and ZipRealty.com. Some banking and financial institutions, such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fifth Third Bank, and PennyMac, also provide estimates to accompany their other financial services. Some real estate agents and brokerages also share their estimators through their websites. Again, it is important to know that these estimates have varying levels of accuracies. These sites may or may not use Automated Valuation Models, but can be another source of property and home value data that anyone can access. Additionally, there are also data companies, such as Attom Data Solutions and CoreLogic, that market propriety AVMs.
As technologies advance and more data becomes available, the number of sites that provide home value estimates may grow. With the knowledge of where to find home value estimates online, it is important to note that these home value estimates are not interchangeable with formal appraisals, comparative market analyses, and they cannot be used as a basis for a loan. Most of these sites, if not all, reiterate the importance of consulting the expertise of real estate professionals to receive an in-depth and in-person analysis of the property and the local market.
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.”