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|
|2021 Rise in|
Mean Annual Wage
Closest to 2021
|United States||$52,667||$50,000||$2,667||$3,072||Directors, religious|
|$63,928||$60,000||$3,928||$4,656||Judicial law clerks|
|Los Angeles– Long|
|$39,994||$60,000||-$20,006||$2,160||Supervisors of food|
|$73,036||$50,000||$23,036||$4,008||Soil and plant|
|St. Louis||$27,741||$50,000||-$22,259||$1,428||Cooks and food|
|$64,638||$44,384||$20,254||$4,380||Set and exhibit|
|Kansas City||$40,846||$50,000||-$9,154||$1,368||Mixing and blending|
|$229,277||$93,000||$136,277||$3,108||Oral and maxillofacial|
|$66,657||$55,000||$11,657||$2,364||Court reporters and|
|Oklahoma City||$26,866||$44,044||-$17,178||$1,584||Food preparation|
|Salt Lake City||$119,539||$53,638||$65,901||$3,156||Computer network|
|$31,968||$50,000||-$18,032||$1,476||Helpers – production|
library workers, all
|Boise City||$124,979||$50,000||$74,979||$3,240||Health specialties|
|*Table ordered by size rank|
|** Median inflation-adjusted pretax wage and salary income data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement|
|*** Occupation wage data from May 2020 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States|
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