Owning a House Was More Profitable than Having a Job Last Year

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Homeownership is hard. You are the one who has to call and pay for the plumber, clean the gunk out of the gutter, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, and fix the screen door every time it breaks. It might as well be a full-time job. Thankfully, last year it paid better than one.

In 2021, US homeowners made more on average from home appreciation than the median US worker earned from their job, according to new data from real estate firm Zillow.

Home Run Derby Winner

Low mortgage interest rates and a sharp decline in the number of homes on the market made last year the most profitable time to own in at least a generation. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures home prices in major US metro areas, rose 18.8% in 2021, the highest annual increase since the index started in 1987. Remote work also drove up prices, leading many professionals to flee expensive housing markets in favor of cheaper ones, where they outbid locals upon arrival.

On Wednesday, Zillow confirmed that owning a home last year was more lucrative than rolling up your sleeves at a regular ‘ol 9 to 5:

  • The real estate company’s home value index, which monitors the value of an average US home, climbed 19.6% in 2021 to $321,634, representing a $52,667 increase over 2020.
  • That surge in value easily eclipsed the median salary of $50,000, according to data from the Census Bureau. Zillow analyzed data going back two decades, and 2021 was the sole year where rises in home values beat out average incomes.

Stay Pricey, San Diego: He may have an apartment that “smells of rich mahogany,” but good luck to San Diego’s Ron Burgundy on buying a house. A typical home in the city where Anchorman is set gained $160,000 in value last year, while the median worker made just $55,000.

Not So Fast: The days of super-low mortgage rates may finally be over. This week, the average 30-year fixed mortgage climbed above 4% for the first time since May 2019, according to Freddie Mac. Yesterday’s Fed rate hike is likely to send it even higher. The home market has already been slowing down as a result of rising rates: applications for home purchase mortgages in the US fell 3.9% in February, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.