Dec 31, 2019

Household income stagnates as home prices soar

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Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Despite a robust economy and low unemployment, household income hasn't changed much in the past 20 years.

  • Median household income was $63,179 in 2018, statistically unchanged from 2017, according to Census data released in September.
  • On an inflation-adjusted basis, households are making only 2.7% more than in 1999.
  • “Most families have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade,” Economic Policy Institute senior economist Elise Gould said at the time.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Americans are paying significant portions of their income on rent as housing costs have outpaced growth in wages.

  • Home prices grew at a slower rate in 2019 than they did in 2018, but a shortage of housing inventory is driving price increases even in U.S. markets touting affordability like Phoenix and Tampa.

What to watch: Annual median home prices are expected to increase by 3.6% in 2020 and by 3.5% in 2021, according to a National Association of Realtors forecast.

The bottom line: “Real estate is on firm ground with little chance of price declines,” said Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, in a release.

  • “However, in order for the market to be healthier, more supply is needed to assure home prices as well as rents do not consistently outgrow income gains," Yun said.

Go deeper:

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The housing market faces an uncertain 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After being one of the weaker sectors of the U.S. economy in the first half of 2019, the housing sector rebounded, spurred by a trio of U.S. interest rate cuts from the Fed that lowered the cost of mortgages.

Yes, but: There are clouds on the horizon for 2020, as declining home affordability continues to be a concern, especially for first-time home buyers.

Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

New York City's mansion tax impacts housing cost

Manhattan sunset, seen in September from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, home of the U.S. Open. Photo: TPN/Getty Images

The average price of a Manhattan co-op or condo fell to $1.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Douglass Elliman, the largest real estate brokerage in the New York City area, the Financial Times reports.

Why it matters: "The Manhattan property drop is in sharp contrast to the rally on Wall Street, where stock markets have hit new records."

Go deeperArrowJan 4, 2020

Americans are moving less

Data: Census 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Fewer than 10% of Americans moved to new places in the 2018-2019 year, the lowest rate since the Census Bureau began tracking domestic relocations in 1947.

Why it matters: Despite a strong economy, more people are feeling locked in place. Young adults, who have historically been the most mobile, are staying put these days thanks to housing and job limitations. So are aging adults who are reluctant to (or can't afford to) make a move.