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Charting 20 Years of Home Price Changes in Every U.S. City

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At the turn of the century, the average U.S. home value was $126,000. Today, that figure is at a record high $259,000 – a 106% increase in just two decades.

Of course, the path from A to B was anything but linear with a financial crisis, housing bubbles in major cities, and now COVID-19, which is drastically altering market dynamics.

How has the housing market evolved, on a city-by-city basis?

Two Decades of Housing Prices

The interactive visual below – created by Avison Young Global, using data from Zillow – is a comprehensive look at U.S. home price data over the past two decades.

Editor’s note: Click the circles at the top of the visualization to see other versions of the data, including price changes at the state and zip code level.

The Lay of the Land

A number of things become apparent when looking at historical data of hundreds of U.S. cities.

First, the trajectory of home prices is defined by the 2008 Financial Crisis. After prices took a steep dive, it took a full decade for the average home price to rise back up to the 2007 peak.

Next, broadly speaking, the U.S. average is being “pulled up” by the hottest regional markets. The majority of housing markets have seen between a 50% and 100% increase in price over the past 20 years. This is also true at the state level, where booming markets such as Hawaii saw price increases double the U.S. average.

Going West

The West Coast has seen dramatic home price appreciation in over the last two decades, a trend that permeated the entire region. Every single city tracked in this database beat the U.S. average.

West coast prices

California and Hawaii saw the biggest gains, with a number of cities ending up with a 200%+ increase over prices in 2000.

The biggest gains in the entire country over the time period was Madera, California, which is located just north of Fresno. The nearby cities of San Jose and San Francisco rose by an impressive 235% and 219%, respectively. As a practical example – during the meteoric rise of Silicon Valley, average prices in San Francisco shot up from $364,000 to $1.12 million.

Even the bottom city (Yakima, Washington) on the left coast saw an increase of 114%.

Slower Home Price Changes

In general, cities located in America’s “Rust Belt” states saw slower home price growth. In fact, every city in these five states saw price growth below the U.S. average.

Of the top 20 U.S. metros, Detroit and Chicago saw the slowest price growth over the past two decades. Flint, Michigan, was the only city in the country to see a price decline.

At the state level, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio were the bottom three in terms of home price appreciation.

A Useful Barometer

Looking at country or state level data fails to capture the incredible nuance of home values around the country.

That said, since the value of a primary residence makes a significant portion of wealth for most Americans, these price movements serve as a useful barometer of the health of the real estate market, and the economy as a whole.

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Markets

Mapped: The Top 30 Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in the U.S.

U.S. real estate value is concentrated in a handful of urban centers. Here’s a look at the top 30 most valuable cities.

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The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in America

According to real estate tycoon Harold Samuel, there are three things that matter when it comes to real estate value—location, location, and location.

America’s property market is no exception to this rule. Depending on the city and its—you guessed it—location, there are vast discrepancies in real estate value across the country.

Usingthe latest data from LendingTree, this graphic ranks the top 30 most valuable real estate cities in America. We’ll also evaluate the top cities based on median value of homes, and how COVID-19 has impacted the market.

The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities

Out of the $32.6 trillion of total real estate value included in LendingTree’s database, the top 30 cities account for almost 57%:

RankCityStateTotal Value
(in billions)
1New YorkNew York$2,838
2Los AngelesCalifornia$2,289
3San FranciscoCalifornia$1,320
4ChicagoIllinois$906
5Washington, D.C.--$826
6BostonMassachusetts$815
7MiamiFlorida$774
8SeattleWashington$700
9DallasTexas$628
10PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$577
11San Jose, Calif.California$568
12San DiegoCalifornia$564
13HoustonTexas$535
14AtlantaGeorgia$531
15Riverside, Calif.California$485
16PhoenixArizona$484
17DenverColorado$439
18MinneapolisMinnesota$383
19DetroitMichigan$348
20Portland, Ore.Oregon$319
21Sacramento, Calif.California$318
22BaltimoreMaryland$301
23Tampa, Fla.Florida$286
24Austin, TexasTexas$248
25Charlotte, N.CNorth Carolina$248
26Orlando, Fla.Florida$233
27HonoluluHawaii$219
28Nashville, Tenn.Tennessee$209
29St. LouisMissouri$202
30Las VegasNevada$191

New York has the highest real estate value in the country at $2.8 trillion—that’s around the size of the UK’s GDP in 2019. Close behind is Los Angeles at $2.3 trillion, while San Francisco ranks third at $1.3 trillion.

This may not come as a surprise, considering the popularity of these areas. New York and Los Angeles have the two highest city populations in the U.S., and San Francisco is the second most densely populated city in America (after New York). Historically, these areas have been notorious for their red-hot real estate markets, limited housing supply, and high costs of living.

However, while these cities take the top three spots when it comes to total real estate value, the ranking looks a bit different when comparing the median value of each city.

Most Valuable Cities, by Median Home Value

When it comes to median home value, San Jose claims the top spot at $1.1 million, while San Francisco places second at $959K:

RankCityStateMedian Value of a Home
1San JoseCalifornia$1,100,000
2San FranciscoCalifornia$959,000
3HonoluluHawaii$705,000
4Los AngelesCalifornia$668,000
5San DiegoCalifornia$594,000
6OxnardCalifornia$586,000
7New YorkNew York$501,000
8BostonMassachusetts$498,000
9SeattleWashington$498,000
10Washington, D.C.--$455,000
11DenverColorado$430,000
12SacramentoCalifornia$410,000
13BridgeportConnecticut$410,000
14PortlandOregon$401,000
15RiversideCalifornia$365,000
16NaplesFlorida$329,000
17AustinTexas$323,000
18Salt Lake CityUtah$312,000
19ProvidenceRhode Island$300,000
20MiamiFlorida$297,000
21MinneapolisMinnesota$294,000
22BaltimoreMaryland$284,000
23Las VegasNevada$278,000
24PhoenixArizona$276,000
25RaleighNorth Carolina$271,000
26NashvilleTennessee$265,000
27PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$246,000
28ChicagoIllinois$245,000
29OrlandoFlorida$245,000
30North PortFlorida$244,000

The Bay Area leads the pack in terms of median value, but San Francisco and San Jose aren’t the only Californian cities to make the list. In fact, half of the top 10 cities are in the Golden State.

Suburban Shuffle

It’s important to note that these numbers are from January 2020, before the global pandemic triggered numerous societal and economic changes, including an accelerated migration to the suburbs from key urban centers like New York and San Francisco.

This mass exodus has negatively impacted sales activity. In fall 2020, or example, home sales in New York dropped by 50% compared to last year.

In contrast, places like Honolulu have seen significant growth in home sales—in September 2020, single-family home sales rose by 12.7% compared to last year. Some experts believe COVID has been a key factor driving this growth, as more people are able to work from anywhere, thanks to remote work.

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Investor Education

Ranking Asset Classes by Historical Returns (1985-2020)

What are the best-performing investments in 2020, and how do previous years compare? This graphic shows historical returns by asset class.

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Historical Returns by Asset Class

Historical Returns by Asset Class (1985-2020)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is there one asset class to rule them all?

From stocks to bonds to alternatives, investors can choose from a wide variety of investment types. The choices can be overwhelming—leaving people to wonder if there’s one investment that consistently outperforms, or if there’s a predictable pattern of performance.

This graphic, which is inspired by and uses data from The Measure of a Plan, shows historical returns by asset class for the last 36 years.

Asset Class Returns by Year

This analysis includes assets of various types, geographies, and risk levels. It uses real total returns, meaning that they account for inflation and the reinvestment of dividends.

Here’s how the data breaks down, this time organized by asset class rather than year:

 U.S. Large Cap StocksU.S. Small Cap StocksInt'l Dev StocksEmerging StocksAll U.S. BondsHigh-Yield U.S. BondsInt'l BondsCash (T-Bill)REITGold
TickerVFIAXVSMAXVTMGXVEMAXVBTLXVWEAXVTABXVUSXXVGSLXIAU
2020*1.5%-5.5%-10.3%-0.7%4.9%-0.5%2.6%-0.7%-16.4%21.9%
201928.5%24.5%19.3%17.6%6.3%13.3%5.5%-0.1%26.1%15.9%
2018-6.2%-11.0%-16.1%-16.2%-1.9%-4.7%1.0%-0.1%-7.7%-3.2%
201719.3%13.8%23.8%28.7%1.4%4.9%0.3%-1.3%2.8%9.3%
20169.7%15.9%0.4%9.5%0.5%9.0%2.5%-1.8%6.3%6.6%
20150.6%-4.3%-0.9%-16.0%-0.3%-2.0%0.3%-0.7%1.6%-12.3%
201412.8%6.7%-6.4%-0.2%5.1%3.9%8.0%-0.7%29.3%-1.2%
201330.4%35.8%20.3%-6.4%-3.6%3.1%-0.4%-1.5%0.9%-29.0%
201214.0%16.2%16.5%16.8%2.4%12.5%4.5%-1.7%15.7%6.5%
2011-0.9%-5.5%-15.0%-21.0%4.6%4.2%0.8%-2.9%5.5%5.5%
201013.4%26.0%6.8%17.2%5.0%10.9%1.7%-1.5%26.6%26.0%
200923.3%32.7%24.9%71.5%3.2%35.6%1.6%-2.4%26.3%20.2%
2008-37.0%-36.1%-41.3%-52.8%5.1%-21.3%5.5%2.0%-37.0%5.4%
20071.3%-2.7%6.8%33.6%2.8%-1.8%0.1%0.7%-19.7%25.8%
200612.9%12.9%23.1%26.3%1.8%5.7%0.5%2.1%31.8%19.3%
20051.4%3.9%9.8%27.7%-0.9%-0.5%1.8%-0.5%8.3%13.0%
20047.3%16.2%16.5%22.1%1.0%5.2%1.8%-2.0%26.7%1.4%
200326.2%43.1%36.1%54.7%2.1%15.1%0.4%-0.9%33.3%19.2%
2002-23.9%-21.8%-17.6%-9.6%5.8%-0.6%4.2%-0.7%1.3%20.8%
2001-13.3%1.6%-23.1%-4.4%6.8%1.3%4.6%2.6%10.7%-0.4%
2000-12.0%-5.8%-17.1%-29.9%7.7%-4.1%5.4%2.5%22.2%-9.6%
199917.9%19.9%23.6%57.3%-3.4%-0.2%-0.6%2.0%-6.5%-1.7%
199826.6%-4.2%18.0%-19.4%6.9%3.9%10.2%3.5%-17.7%-2.4%
199731.0%22.5%0.0%-18.2%7.6%10.0%8.9%3.5%16.8%-23.2%
199618.9%14.3%2.6%12.1%0.3%6.0%8.3%1.9%31.4%-7.7%
199534.0%25.6%8.4%-1.9%15.3%16.2%14.3%3.1%10.0%-1.7%
1994-1.5%-3.1%4.9%-10.1%-5.2%-4.3%-7.3%1.3%0.4%-4.9%
19937.0%15.5%28.9%69.4%6.7%15.1%10.7%0.2%16.3%13.9%
19924.4%14.9%-14.7%7.8%4.1%11.0%3.3%0.6%11.2%-8.7%
199126.3%40.9%8.7%54.5%11.8%25.2%7.5%2.5%31.5%-12.5%
1990-8.9%-22.8%-27.9%-16.1%2.4%-11.3%-2.7%1.6%-20.3%-8.3%
198925.5%11.0%5.6%56.9%8.6%-2.6%-0.6%3.7%3.9%-6.8%
198811.3%19.7%22.8%33.9%2.8%8.8%4.4%2.1%8.6%-19.6%
19870.3%-12.7%19.3%9.3%-2.8%-1.7%4.5%1.3%-7.8%19.0%
198616.8%4.5%67.5%10.4%13.9%15.6%10.1%5.0%17.7%17.9%
198526.4%26.2%50.3%22.9%17.6%17.5%7.0%3.8%14.6%1.7%

*Data for 2020 is as of October 31

The top-performing asset class so far in 2020 is gold, with a return more than four times that of second-place U.S. bonds. On the other hand, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have been the worst-performing investments. Needless to say, economic shutdowns due to COVID-19 have had a devastating effect on commercial real estate.

Over time, the order is fairly random with asset classes moving up and down the ranks. For example, emerging market stocks plummeted to last place amid the global financial crisis in 2008, only to rise to the top the following year. International bonds were near the bottom of the barrel in 2017, but rose to the top during the 2018 market selloff.

There are also large swings in the returns investors can expect in any given year. While the best-performing asset class returned just 1% in 2018, it returned a whopping 71.5% in 2009.

Variation Within Asset Classes

Within individual asset classes, the range in returns can also be quite large. Here’s the minimum, maximum, and average returns for each asset class. We’ve also shown each investment’s standard deviation, which is a measure of volatility or risk.

Return Variation Within Asset Classes Over History

Although emerging market stocks have seen the highest average return, they have also seen the highest standard deviation. On the flip side, T-bills have seen returns lower than inflation since 2009, but have come with the lowest risk.

Investors should factor in risk when they are looking at the return potential of an asset class.

Variety is the Spice of Portfolios

Upon reviewing the historical returns by asset class, there’s no particular investment that has consistently outperformed. Rankings have changed over time depending on a number of economic variables.

However, having a variety of asset classes can ensure you are best positioned to take advantage of tailwinds in any particular year. For instance, bonds have a low correlation with stocks and can cushion against losses during market downturns.

If your mirror could talk, it would tell you there’s no one asset class to rule them all—but a mix of asset classes may be your best chance at success.

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