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Homeownership Creates Wealth Even If That’s Not the Goal

Homeowners who spent a lifetime working, raising families and paying mortgages have a greater net worth later in life. Among U.S. families who own rather than rent, a primary residence accounts for 90% of total wealth – and 99% for the bottom 20% of low-income owners.

WASHINGTON – Homeownership presents a great pathway to build wealth. Among all families, the ownership of a primary residence typically accounts for 90% of total wealth, based on the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finance data. Among those in the bottom 20% of the income percentile, it’s even more: The median value of holdings for a primary residence accounts for 99% of total family assets. For top earners, however – the top 10% income bracket – it’s 42%.

Housing wealth accumulation takes time. It’s built up slowly by paying off mortgage debt and through price appreciation. And while home prices can fall, prices tend to recover and go up over the long term. As of September 2020, the median sales price of existing home sales was $311,800 – a 35% gain since July 2006 when prices peaked at $230,000.

Nationally, a person who purchased a typical home 30 years ago gained about $283,000 as of the second quarter of 2020. Of the total wealth gain, 67% ($192,600) is from the price appreciation of 3.7% annually. Over a 10-year period, the wealth accumulation is $144,490, of which $114,233 (80%) is from price appreciation.

Nine of the top 10 metro areas with the largest housing wealth gains over a 10-year period were on the West Coast: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward; Anaheim-Sta. Ana-Irvine; San Diego-Carlsbad; Los-Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue; Boulder, Colorado; Urban Honolulu, Hawaii; and Denver-Aurora Lakewood, Colorado. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island rounds out the 10th.

However, in terms of home price appreciation and the rate of return (price appreciation less mortgage rate), the top metro areas are Cape Coral Fort-Myers, Florida; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Boise-City-Nampa, Idaho; Reno, Nevada; Port-St. Lucie, Florida; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara; Riverside-San Bernardino, California; Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona; and Lakeland-Winter-Haven, Florida.

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