Wage Versus Home Price Growth

Wage Versus Home Price Growth

By metro area

Based on the headlines, home prices outpace wage growth. Indeed, in the last six years home prices increased 47 percent while wages rose 16 percent. What do these percentage changes actually mean for a typical homebuyer? How much did the typical salary increase in dollars? How much more do buyers need to pay for their monthly payment because of the price increase?

NAR calculated the monthly earnings for a typical employee in both 2018 and 2012. Respectively, using the median home prices in 2018 and 2012, we also computed the monthly payment for a typical home for both years[1]. Then, we compared the change of the average monthly wages in dollars with the change of the monthly payment in the last 6 years.

Nationwide, the monthly earnings of a typical employee rose by $530 to $3,784 in the fourth quarter of 2018 from $3,256 six years earlier. In the meantime, the monthly payment increased by $354 to $1,114 in 2018 from $760 in 2012. Thus, although home prices increased nearly three times more than wages (in percentage points), homebuyers needed to spend less than their salary increase for the higher mortgage payment. Noticeably, homebuyers needed to spend nearly two thirds of their salary increase (above the 30% rule) for the higher mortgage payment[2].

Since all real estate is local, we calculated how much both the monthly wage and mortgage payment changed during 2012 and 2018 for the 100 largest metro areas.

In the last six years, the Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA metro areas experienced the highest gains in wages. In both metro areas, the average monthly salary increased by $1,150 between 2012 and 2018. In the Seattle, WA metro area, the average monthly salary increased to $5,632 in the last quarter of 2018 from $4,479 six years earlier. However, in some metro areas, wages dropped. In the Tucson, AZ metro area, the average monthly earnings declined by $189. Similarly, in the Palm Bay, FL metro area the average monthly wages dropped by $172. Overall, the average monthly wages increased by $433 in the 100 largest metro areas.

In the meantime, home prices increased in all of the 100 largest metro areas except for the Bridgeport, CT metro area. As a result, current homebuyers need to pay a higher monthly mortgage payment for the same home compared to 2012. Among the 100 largest metro areas, San Jose, CA and San Francisco, CA metro areas experienced the highest increase in the monthly mortgage payment because of price appreciation. Specifically, in the San Jose, CA metro area, current homebuyers need to pay $2,428 per month more than in 2012 for the same home. However, overall, the monthly mortgage payment increased by $340 on average in the 100 largest metro areas.

Comparing the amount of the wage increase with the higher monthly mortgage payment, in 70 percent of the 100 largest metro areas, wages in dollars increased more than the mortgage payment. Moreover, in most of these metro areas, the increase of the mortgage payment accounted for less than 30 percent of the wage increase. For instance, in the Chicago, IL metro area the average monthly wage increased by $572 while the monthly mortgage payment rose by $326. Another example is the Dallas, TX metro area. In this area, homebuyers in 2018 earned $558 more every month than homebuyers in 2012 while the monthly mortgage payment increased $420 since 2012 because of the price appreciation.

See below the top 5 metro areas with the highest monthly income gains compared to the extra housing cost:

Nevertheless, the extra monthly housing cost exceeds the income gains in 30 percent of the 100 largest metro areas. For instance, in the San Jose, CA metro area, homebuyers in 2018 earned $549 more every month compared to the homebuyers in 2012. However, the monthly mortgage payment increased $2,428 since 2012 because of the price appreciation. This means that homebuyers will need to attribute a higher percentage of their monthly earnings to housing cost since their income gains are not enough to cover the extra housing cost.

Here are the top 5 metro areas where the extra housing cost exceeds income gains:

See below how much both the monthly wage and mortgage payment changed during 2012 and 2018 for each of the 100 largest metro areas.

View the Data here


[1] Assuming the same mortgage rate at 4% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

[2] Based on the rule of thumb, 30% of the gross income should be spent for housing.

February 2019 Existing-Home Sales

February 2019 Existing-Home Sales

  • NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this February, bounced back and was up 11.8 percent from January 2019. Despite the month over month gains, sales of existing-homes dropped 1.8 percent from February 2018. February’s existing home sales reached a 5.51 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the highest since March 2018.
  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $249,500 in February, up 3.6 percent from a year ago. This marks the 84th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
  • Regionally, all four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago. The Midwest had largest gain of 5.4 percent followed by the Northeast with a gain of 3.8 percent. The West had an increase of 3.0 percent followed by the South with an incline of 2.5 from February 2018.
  • February’s inventory figures are up from last month 2.5 percent to 1.63 million homes for sale. Compared with February of 2018, there was a 3.2 percent increase in inventory levels. It will take 3.5 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 44 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market, up from 37 days a year ago.
  • From January 2019, three of the four regions showed inclines in sales while the Northeast was unchanged. The West had the biggest gain of 16.0 percent followed by the South with an incline of 214.9 percent. The Midwest had the smallest increase of 9.5 percent.
  • Two of the four regions showed declines in sales from a year ago and the Midwest was flat. The Northeast had the only gain in sales of 1.5 percent. The West had the biggest decline of 7.9 percent followed by the South with the smallest drop of 0.4 percent. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 43.4 percent of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 12.5 percent.
  • In February, single-family sales were up 13.3 percent and condominiums sales were unchanged to last month. Single-family home sales fell 1.4 percent and condominium sales were down 5.0 compared to a year ago. Single-family homes had an increase in price up 3.6 percent at $251,400 and condominiums modestly rose 3.1 percent at $233,300 from February 2018.
How I Staged It: The Master Suite

How I Staged It: The Master Suite

The master suite is a place where relaxation should be paramount. A calming color scheme and carefully staged space can do exactly that. Staging and real estate professionals submitted some of their favorite staging photos and tips for our new slideshow, How I Staged It: The Makings of a Master Retreat.

Check out these stylishly staged master bedrooms >>>

View more

How I Staged It: The Fireplace

Want to have your photos featured? We’re looking for staging insights and photos for making over the entryway and dining room. Submit your pictures to mtracey@realtors.org.

The 3 Most Important Rooms to Stage in a House

The 3 Most Important Rooms to Stage in a House

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Staging not only results in a quicker sale but also tends to increase the home’s value too, according to the newly released 2019 Profile of Home Staging report conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. One quarter of buyers’ agents say that staging a home increased the dollar value of a home between 1 to 5 percent compared to similar homes on the market that weren’t staged. Seventeen percent of agents said that staging increased the home’s dollar value between six to 10 percent.

Which rooms are the most important to focus on in the house?

Staging the living room was found to be the most important for buyers (47 percent), followed by staging the master bedroom (42 percent) and staging the kitchen (35 percent). For inspiration on sprucing up the master bedroom, view our slideshow: How I Staged It: The Makings of a Master Retreat

The least important area to stage? The guest bedroom, according to buyer agents. Only 8 percent of buyer agents said it was important to stage a guest bedroom in the home.

Wealth Gains from Homeownership across Metro Areas in 2018

Wealth Gains from Homeownership across Metro Areas in 2018

Homeownership has been associated with positive social outcomes[1], 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).[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]  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).[5] 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[6]:

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:


[1] 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/

[2] Federal Reserve Board, 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances

[3] 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

[4] 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).

[5] 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.

[6] These calculations are illustrative of the magnitude of the housing wealth gains; actual change in home equity will vary by home.