The housing market wasn’t looking so hot during the early weeks of the 2020 lockdowns.
An unemployment rate that quickly soared to the highest level since the Great Depression all but assured a real estate tailspin. Forecast models produced in spring 2020 by CoreLogic and Zillow agreed, with both real estate firms predicting that home prices would fall. But they were dead wrong: Not only did the housing market avoid a slump, it took off on one of the hottest stretches in U.S. history. Strong home buyer demand saw inventory plunge to a 40-year low, while bidding wars reached an all-time high. Since the beginning of 2020, U.S. median home list prices on realtor.com are up 27%—adding $9.1 trillion to the total value of the U.S. housing market in 2021 alone.
That said, this historically competitive—and tight—housing market isn’t uniformly strong across the nation. Homeowners in some states have seen their home values notch a strong jump, while owners in other states have seen their values absolutely explode.
On the price growth front, the West is clearly seeing the most action. Since the beginning of 2020, home price growth, calculated by Fortune using realtor.com data, is lead by a staggering 57% jump in Montana. It’s followed closely by fellow Western states of Idaho (46%), Utah (37%), and Nevada (37%). Maine rounds out the top five for home appreciation, posting a 36% median price jump during that period. What do these states have in common? They’ve all been go-to states for buyers fleeing high cost markets in states like California and New York—a trend that intensified during the pandemic as work from home allowed buyers to decamp from corporate headquarters.
The five states seeing the least list price growth are Ohio (9%), Maryland (10%), Iowa (11%), Oklahoma (11%), and Nebraska (12%). While the housing markets in those states are still very much seller’s markets, they pale in comparison to the frenzy that has taken over the Mountain West.
When you look at actual equity added, homeowners out West are even further ahead.
Over the past year, the average homeowner in California—a state with a $77,358 median household income—have seen their home equity (the home’s fair market value minus the mortgage balance) soar $118,700. They’re followed by homeowners in Hawaii ($112,700), Washington ($96,000), Arizona ($92,000) Utah ($91,000), and Idaho ($82,000). Meanwhile, the smallest jump ($15,000) occurred in North Dakota—a state with a $258,900 median home price.
Will this historic run continue in 2022? The industry isn’t quite sure.
The housing market should continue to see an influx of buyers—given we’re still amid the five-year window (2019 through 2023) where millennials born during the generation’s five largest birth years (1989 through 1993) will all hit the all-important first-time home buying age of 30. That coupled with tight inventory underpins why Zillow is forecasting U.S. prices will jump another 11% in 2022. But not everyone agrees: Redfin and Realtor.com forecast U.S. home prices will jump a more modest 3% and 2.9%, respectively, in 2022.
Why the lack of consensus? A lot of it boils down to uncertainty on the mortgage rate front. Stubbornly high inflation has made it more likely the Federal Reserve will push up interest rates and subsequently mortgage rates in 2022. If the current 3.1% average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rises significantly, it could have a cooling effect on the housing market.
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