The Working Waterfront

Buying a house is still your best investment

Real estate association highlights wealth gains

By Kenny Parcell
Posted 2023-08-29
Last Modified 2023-08-29

The path to homeownership can be bumpy. Buyers must withstand bidding wars, contingencies, complex tax laws, and an array of market factors beyond most anyone’s control. Still, buying a house is typically the single best investment a family can make.

Homeownership is the largest source of wealth creation in the U.S., while the median net worth of the average American homeowner is more than 40 times that of the average renter.

A decision of this magnitude comes with a number of potential hurdles, and it’s important to get the decision right. Certified housing counselors and agents who are realtors can help consumers do just that.

Home equity is the largest financial asset for American households in the middle three quintiles of the income distribution…

The motivation for buying a home differs from person to person. For many, it’s financial—an opportunity to grow home equity and lock-in a stable monthly housing payment. For others, it’s emotional—a chance to build roots, create stability and feel more connected to their community.

In Bankrate’s Financial Security survey, 74% of respondents ranked homeownership as a key component of the American dream.

A report released by the National Association of Realtors analyzed how homeowners across income levels have increased their net worth in recent years and decades. Between 2012 and 2022, the median value of homes owned by lower-income Americans climbed 75%, a gain of roughly $100,000. Middle-income homeowners saw their properties appreciate 68% over the same period, equivalent to a wealth increase of $122,000.

Today, home equity is the largest financial asset for American households in the middle three quintiles of the income distribution, accounting for between 50% and 70% of this group’s total net worth.

Making a mortgage payment each month is, in many ways, comparable to contributing to a stable savings account. Homeowners chip away at their loan balance and increase their claim on the home’s overall value in the process. Many Americans who bought a median-value home ten years ago and stayed consistent with their monthly payments have already paid off over 20% of their mortgage.

Unfortunately, many Americans today feel their homeownership dreams are beyond reach.

All Americans deserve the opportunity to achieve their homeownership dreams and build lasting wealth. Prospective buyers can take advantage of several resources.

First-timers can benefit from connecting with a certified housing counselor. These trained agents with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development help prospective home buyers plan for future home purchases and get their finances mortgage-ready.

Agents who are realtors also help people navigate the home-buying process. They’re uniquely positioned to leverage their knowledge of a local market, extensive networks, and down payment assistance programs to open doors to affordable housing opportunities.

Everyone deserves safe, quality housing at a price they can afford. Even when the market seems challenging, prospective buyers can still obtain their own piece of the American Dream, capitalizing on resources available through real estate professionals and the programs they support.

Kenny Parcell is 2023 president of the National Association of Realtors broker-owner of Equity Real Estate Utah. This piece was originally published on