Every year, households across the country make the decision to rent for another year or take the leap into homeownership. They look at their earnings and savings and then decide what makes the most financial sense. That equation will most likely take into consideration monthly housing costs, tax advantages, and other incremental expenses.
There is, however, another financial advantage to owning a home that’s often forgotten in the analysis – the wealth built through equity when you own a home.
Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, discusses this point in a recent blog post. She explains:
“Once you include the equity benefit of price appreciation, owning made more financial sense than renting in 48 out of the 50 top markets, with the only exceptions being San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.”
Homeownership is the Top Contributor to Household Wealth
Two US Census Bureau researchers have determined that the biggest determinants of household wealth are owning a home and having a retirement account. While that may not be surprising, the degrees of magnitude are.
Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, Jonathan Eggleston, an economist, and Donald Hays, a survey statistician in the Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division found that the wealth inequality between homeowners and renters is striking, with the former having median net worth 80 times that of the latter.
Net worth is an important indicator of economic well-being that provides insights into a household’s economic health.
For example, during financial hardships such as illness or unemployment wealth is a buffer. It is measured by the value of assets owned minus the debts owned. Therefore, net worth can be negative. Households in the top 1 percent of net worth were excluded from the study.
About half of households had outstanding unsecured debt with a median of $7,500. Credit card and store bills were the most common unsecured liability and about one in five households had outstanding student loan debt, with a median for those that did of $20,000.
37 percent of households did not own a home and 47.1 percent did not have a retirement account. For those who had both, the home equity and savings accounted for 62.9 percent of the household’s net worth. Equity provided 34.1 percent and retirement accounts made up 28.8 percent
From there, the percentage of assets contributing to wealth drops off sharply. The third and fourth categories, stocks/mutual funds and bank accounts made up about 8.5 percent each. Some of the most commonly held assets made up only a small portion of wealth, for example, 91 percent of households hold those fourth-ranked bank accounts while the largest contributor to wealth, home ownership was the third most commonly held asset. While the median amount of home equity was $95,800, the median value of assets at financial institutions was $4,600.
What home equity meant to homeowners in the past?
ATTOM Data Solutions, the curator of one of the nation’s premier property databases, just analyzed the typical home-price gain owners nationwide enjoyed when they sold their homes. Here’s a breakdown of their findings:The typical gain in the sale of the home (equity) has increased significantly over the last five years.
CoreLogic, another property data curator, also weighed in on the subject. According to their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity in just the last year alone.
What does the future look like for homeowners when it comes to equity?
Here are the seven major home price appreciation forecasts for 2021:The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just reported that today, the median-priced home in the country sells for $309,800. If homes appreciate by 5% this year (the average of the forecasts), the homeowner will increase their wealth by $15,490 in 2021 through increased equity.
As you make your plans for the coming year, be sure to consider the equity benefits of home price appreciation as you weigh the financial advantages of buying over renting. When you do, you may find this is the perfect time to jump into homeownership.