The year 2017 brought us conflict with North Korea, a changing of the guard in the Federal Reserve and a massive legislative overhaul that changes the U.S. tax code and how homeowners deduct interest from their mortgages.
But it also brought us significant milestones for the housing market. Zillow’s economists released figures showing that U.S. housing value is the highest it’s been in a decade.
Combined, all homes in the U.S. were worth $31.8 trillion in 2017, according to Zillow’s report. That’s more than the housing value in 2016, when all homes in the U.S. were collectively worth $29.6 trillion.
Yes, $31 trillion is an impressive number but what does it tell us? A few things:
- The U.S. housing market is still a flourishing industry. The $31.8 trillion estimate means that the collective value of homes in the U.S. is 1.5 times greater than the gross domestic product of the U.S. (about $18 trillion or so) and nearly three times greater than China’s GDP (about $11 trillion)
- Homeownership is still a wise investment that produces wealth. Conversely, the Zillow report also shows that Americans paid a cumulative $485 billion in rent last year, $4.9 billion more than they spent in 2016. That’s billions of dollars in the pockets of landlords, not renters.
- And the housing market continues to reclaim the value it lost after the housing collapse. After the housing bubble burst in 2006, home values began dropping, falling from $28 trillion that year to $22 trillion by December 2011 when the economy was in the throes of recovering from the recession. By 2012, values began trickling upward and exceeded their 2006 tally in 2016. Now that 2017’s number is greater, we can expect housing values to keep climbing in the years to come as housing supply continues to hover at historic lows. The Case-Shiller Home Prices forecasts for 2018’s year over year quarterly increases are as follows: Q1 +3.1%, Q2 + 3.1%, Q3 + 2.8%, Q4 + 2.8%
Jobs numbers lag
Employment in the U.S. flopped in December when only 148,000 new jobs were created, bringing a disappointing end to a year of impressive job growth.
Analysts expected the economy to add between 180,000 and 190,000 new jobs to the labor market last month. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent and average hourly earnings grew by 9 cents to $26.63.
Despite the December dip, job creation in 2017 overall was quite robust, with a bumper crop of new jobs added to the labor market month after month. Devastating hurricanes that sacked major employment hubs like Houston and Florida waylaid job numbers in the fall but they quickly rebounded as those areas began the road to recovery.
Friday’s jobs report was significant because it offers a year-in-review snapshot of how the labor market fared during President Donald Trump’s first year as president. Trump tweeted Wednesday that the 4.1 percent unemployment rate is proof that the economy is “Only getting better!” When he took office last January, the rate was 4.8 percent.
In other news this week…
- Impending tax cuts expected to boost consumer and business spending motivated the Fed to revise its economic forecast for gross domestic product from 2.1 percent to 2.5 percent, according to minutes from the central bank’s December policy meeting. The minutes, released Wednesday, show nothing new in regards to how policymakers view low inflation, which remains below the central bank’s 2 percent target.
- Mortgage applications dropped 2.8 percent in the week ending Dec. 29, while refinance applications fell 7 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
- Between November 2016 and November 2017, home prices increased 7 percent, according to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index. The HPI predicts prices will increase by just 4.2 percent over the next year.
- In the markets, as equities continue their rise with new records daily, bonds are meandering along as the 10-year Treasury note sits at 2.46%(see graph).