Your house probably made more than you did last year

Skyrocketing home values and rent make the jump to ownership even more challenging

  • 2021 home value growth exceeded median income in 25 of 38 major metros studied.
  • Appreciation on the typical home ranged from the equivalent of an oral surgeon’s annual wages in San Jose to that of a food preparation worker in St. Louis.
  • Annual rent payments grew by more than $3,000, while down payments increased by more than $10,000.

The term “household income” took on new meaning in 2021 as a new study found that actual houses earned more than the median worker due to home value appreciation.

“More than anything, 2021 was a year of haves and have-nots, and the chasm between the two widening throughout,” said Zillow economist Nicole Bachaud. “Those who owned a home saw their household wealth increase dramatically. But many renters witnessed that dream either soar out of reach or had to drastically adjust their expectations and plans.” 

Home value appreciation in 2021 was higher than median incomes in 25 of 38 major metropolitan areas studied by Zillow, with appreciation reaching higher than $100,000 in 11 of them. Though San Jose has the highest median income at $93,000, it also led all major metros in annual home value appreciation — with the typical home growing a whopping $229,277 over 2021, nearly what oral surgeons make. 

Expensive coastal markets in California and Hawaii saw home value growth wallop local median incomes by the largest amounts. San Jose led but San Francisco closely followed, with homes earning $129,914 more than the median salary. Boise, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Phoenix rounded out the top 10. 

Metropolitan areas with the lowest home price appreciation relative to median incomes were Detroit, St. Louis and Baltimore, though even the smallest home value growth among these metros, in St. Louis, was still higher than $27,000. 

While homeowners watched their assets multiply in 2021, the chasm separating many renters from homeownership widened, as home prices skyrocketed and rising rents eroded their ability to save for a down payment.

Rents rose 16% across the U.S. in 2021 and upward of 25% in popular Sun Belt locales like Miami, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Locking in a one-year lease on a typical U.S. rental cost $3,072 more at the end of the year than the start of the year. It was $7,104 more in Miami, $4,644 more in Phoenix and $4,380 more in Las Vegas — major hits to a household budget, as that money can’t be saved toward a down payment. 

At the same time, down payments — often the highest hurdle to homeownership for first-time buyers — rose by more than $10,000 in 2021 for a typical 30-year fixed mortgage. Sticking with our metros used in the rent comparison, typical down payments rose nearly $14,500 in Miami, more than $20,600 in Phoenix and $16,700 in Las Vegas. 

Metro Area* Home Value
Growth
December
2020 –
December
2021
Median
Pretax
Income,
2021**
Home Value
Growth
Minus
Median
Income
2021 Rise in
Full-Year
Rent
Payments
U.S. Profession’s
Mean Annual Wage
Closest to 2021
Home Value
Growth***
United States $52,667 $50,000 $2,667 $3,072 Directors, religious
activities and
education
New York–
Newark— Jersey
City
$63,928 $60,000 $3,928 $4,656 Judicial law clerks
Los Angeles– Long
Beach– Anaheim
$131,979 $50,000 $81,979 $3,924 Judges, magistrates
Chicago–
Naperville– Elgin
$34,918 $57,000 -$22,082 $2,028 Other protective
service workers
Dallas–Fort
Worth– Arlington
$69,488 $50,000 $19,488 $3,156 Human resource
specialists
Houston– The
Woodlands–
Sugar Land
$45,250 $50,000 -$4,750 $2,004 Dental laboratory
technicians
Washington,
D.C.– Arlington-
Alexandria
$56,163 $75,000 -$18,837 $2,700 Loading machine
operators,
underground mining
Miami– Fort
Lauderdale– West
Palm Beach
$72,053 $40,000 $32,053 $7,104 Public relations
specialists
Philadelphia–
Camden–
Wilmington
$39,994 $60,000 -$20,006 $2,160 Supervisors of food
preparation and
serving workers
Atlanta– Sandy
Springs– Roswell
$73,036 $50,000 $23,036 $4,008 Soil and plant
scientists
Phoenix– Mesa–
Scottsdale
$103,470 $52,000 $51,470 $4,644 Education
administrators, K–2
Boston–
Cambridge–
Newton
$76,616 $66,852 $9,764 $3,948 Arbitrators,
mediators
San Francisco–
Oakland-Hayward
$204,914 $75,000 $129,914 $3,540 General internal
medicine physicians
Riverside– San
Bernardino–
Ontario
$111,014 $45,000 $66,014 $4,560 Air transportation
workers
Detroit– Warren–
Dearborn
$29,675 $57,000 -$27,325 $1,644 Gambling cage
workers
Seattle– Tacoma–
Bellevue
$131,129 $65,000 $66,129 $3,816 Computer and
information research
scientists
Minneapolis– St.
Paul–
Bloomington
$39,942 $60,000 -$20,058 $1,020 Gambling
surveillance officers
San Diego—
Carlsbad
$160,493 $54,703 $105,790 $4,932 Computer and
information systems
managers
Tampa– St.
Petersburg–
Clearwater
$74,754 $46,000 $28,754 $5,292 Criminal justice
teachers,
postsecondary
Denver– Aurora–
Lakewood
$108,922 $65,000 $43,922 $2,928 Electrical engineers
St. Louis $27,741 $50,000 -$22,259 $1,428 Cooks and food
preparation workers
Baltimore–
Columbia–
Towson
$36,984 $60,000 -$23,016 $2,316 Medical assistants
Charlotte–
Concord–
Gastonia
$71,804 $57,000 $14,804 $3,384 Commercial divers
Orlando–
Kissimmee–
Sanford
$64,638 $44,384 $20,254 $4,380 Set and exhibit
designers
San Antonio–
New Braunfels
$54,769 $46,966 $7,803 $2,292 Counselors
Portland–
Hillsboro–
Vancouver
$83,283 $60,000 $23,283 $2,520 Speech-language
pathologists
Las Vegas–
Henderson–
Paradise
$83,894 $46,000 $37,894 $4,380 Nuclear technicians
Kansas City $40,846 $50,000 -$9,154 $1,368 Mixing and blending
machine setters,
operators
San Jose–
Sunnyvale– Santa
Clara
$229,277 $93,000 $136,277 $3,108 Oral and maxillofacial
surgeons
Nashville–
Davidson–
Murfreesboro–
Franklin
$84,395 $50,000 $34,395 $3,372 Emergency
management
directors
Providence–
Warwick
$66,657 $55,000 $11,657 $2,364 Court reporters and
simultaneous
captioners
Oklahoma City $26,866 $44,044 -$17,178 $1,584 Food preparation
workers
New Orleans–
Metairie
$31,945 $47,000 -$15,055 $2,628 Textile machine
setters, operators
and tenders
Salt Lake City $119,539 $53,638 $65,901 $3,156 Computer network
architects
Birmingham–
Hoover
$31,968 $50,000 -$18,032 $1,476 Helpers – production
workers
Urban Honolulu $138,254 $51,000 $87,254 $2,820 Operations
specialties managers
Omaha– Council
Bluffs
$31,114 $50,000 -$18,886 $1,236 Funeral attendants
Albuquerque $47,215 $45,000 $2,215 $2,736 Educational
instruction and
library workers, all
others
Boise City $124,979 $50,000 $74,979 $3,240 Health specialties
teachers,
postsecondary

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