The average home sale in 2017 generated roughly a $39,000 profit for the sellers, based on recent sales price data as well as historical home prices from Zillow. But after accounting for inflation over the typical time between sales — 8.5 years — that figure fell to $15,000 nationally.
Earnings from home sales were also dramatically different depending on their location. Sellers in competitive West Coast markets like San Jose saw a total return of around 50 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, homes sold in eight of the 35 largest markets, including New York and Chicago, actually lost money after factoring in inflation.
Zillow defined gains from home sales according to the difference between median sales prices in the first and last years in which the typical homeowner owned their home. The data therefore only applies to those who sold houses in 2017, and doesn’t directly account for costs related to selling a home or adding value through renovations.
The West Coast led the way in the rankings, with some of the nation’s hottest real estate markets posting the biggest gains for sellers in 2017. San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland all rounded out the top four according to percentage returns, and the median gain for all except Portland stretched well into six-figure territory. Nashville was the highest-grossing city for sellers outside of the western United States, where the median gain from a sale last year was $62,000, a 34.4 percent nominal return.
The bottom of the list was occupied by Chicago, which has lagged behind its big-city peers in price appreciation. Chicago home sales in 2017 generated a median nominal return of $20,000. After accounting for inflation over the median time between sales (14 years in Chicago), this became a loss of $20,000. Cleveland, Cincinnati and Philadelphia were among other large cities to see inflation-adjusted losses on home sales in 2017.
Nationally, earnings from 2017 home sales were nearly identical to those Zillow reported for 2016. Both years still posted the highest median gains since 2007, when the national median gain was $47,500.
Although sellers tended to earn money from their transactions last year, it may not have made a significant difference for the majority who were simultaneously buying a new home. Builder Magazine pointed out that based on the Zillow study and average down payment costs as of April 2018, the median gain from a home sale wouldn’t be enough to cover a standard 20 percent down payment in most cases. Only 10 of the 35 markets included in Zillow’s analysis showed gains large enough to cover a 20 percent down payment in the city.