The housing market has stayed strong throughout the pandemic, thanks in large part to historically low mortgage rates. But not everyone has an equal opportunity to take advantage, as the National Association of Realtors laid out in a report on race and home buying last month.
The second annual report examined racial gaps in home ownership nationwide and by state. A LendingTree report also published last month found that, in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, Black residents make up 21% of the population but own 14.8% of owner-occupied homes.
Home ownership helps families build wealth. In 2019, the net worth of a homeowner was $255,000 — 40 times the net worth of a renter, according to the Federal Reserve. In the last decade, Black Americans have seen the largest drop in home ownership rates.
Financial institutions reject the mortgage applications of Black prospective home buyers at rates 2½ times that of white buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors report. Black home buyers also are more likely to have student loan debt, which can be a hurdle to purchasing a home. Rising home prices threaten to knock more potential buyers — including those who are Black — out of the housing market.
“We need to find solutions for everyone to have the same opportunities for home ownership,” said Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting at the National Association of Realtors and one of the report’s authors.
The association published the report to urge policymakers to find those solutions, she said. It supports the Biden administration’s proposal for a tax credit of up to $15,000 for first-time home buyers and wants to increase incentives for builders to create more housing that people in their markets can afford.
Here are some highlights from the association’s report:
Nationwide, the white home ownership rate was almost 70% in 2019. It was 78% in Delaware, which is tied with South Carolina and Mississippi as the states with the highest rate. In states with the lowest rates, roughly half of the white population were homeowners.
In contrast, the Black home ownership rate was 42% nationally in 2019. In Puerto Rico, 70% of Black people were homeowners, the highest U.S. rate. South Carolina and Maryland were the states with the highest rate, at 52%. The states with the lowest rates — North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana — also have Black populations of less than 3%. Their Black home ownership rates range from 5% in North Dakota to 20% in Montana.
Home prices have climbed as demand stays high, prices of building materials such as lumber continue to rise, and the supply of homes for sale stays low. Builders have produced fewer housing units than needed for the last decade, according to the Realtors group.
In December, the national median price of existing homes hit roughly $309,800, up 40% from five years prior, according to the Realtors group. The affordability of homes varies by region and race. Nationally, 43% of Black Americans can afford to buy a home and 63% of white Americans can. In the nation’s capital, 14% of Black residents can buy compared with 56% of white residents. Decades of systemic housing discrimination and policies limiting Black wealth underlie the disparities.
In Pennsylvania, 70% or more of white and Asian residents can afford to buy a home, but less than half of Black residents can afford one. In New Jersey, 74% of Asian residents and nearly 60% of white residents can afford a home, and 37% of Black residents can afford one.
Nationwide, white people bought 81% of the homes purchased in 2019. Black people bought 7% of the homes. Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Delaware had the highest share of homes bought by Black residents — about 23%.
Pennsylvania’s sales breakdown of white and Black home buyers mirrored that of the nation. In New Jersey, Black buyers purchased 10% of homes and white buyers purchased 71%.
The National Association of Realtors compared buyers before and after the start of the pandemic and found that slightly more Hispanic and Latino buyers and Asian and Pacific Islander buyers purchased homes after the pandemic started, as mortgage rates continued to fall. The share of Black home buyers before and after the pandemic stayed the same. From July 2019 to July 2020, more than 80% of home buyers were white.
Home buyers who can use the equity in their homes to buy a new one have an advantage over first-time home buyers. Between June 2019 and June 2020, 72% of white home buyers were repeat buyers, compared with 52% of Black home buyers.
The National Association of Realtors used data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to study home ownership and affordability by race. It also surveyed more than 8,200 people who purchased homes between July 2019 and June 2020.