The Net Worth Advantage: Homeowners vs. Renters

Dated: February 2 2024

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The decision to rent or own a home is not just about having a place to live; it also has significant implications for your financial future. One key aspect that often comes into play is net worth ... the value of your assets minus your liabilities. Numerous studies and statistics highlight a compelling trend: homeowners tend to have higher net worth compared to renters.

The numbers according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances confirms the belief that homeownership has long been associated with wealth accumulation.  The median net worth of homeowners is 40 times higher than that of renters. This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors that favor homeowners, including equity buildup, property appreciation, and forced savings through mortgage payments.

Homeownership allows individuals to build equity over time, which is the difference between the home's market value and the remaining mortgage balance. Every mortgage payment with amortizing loans contributes to this equity, leading to a gradual increase in homeowners' net worth. On the contrary, renters do not benefit from this form of forced savings, as their monthly rent does not result in any ownership stake.

Historically, real estate has proven to be a valuable investment, with properties appreciating in value over the long term. Homeowners enjoy the potential for capital appreciation, which can significantly boost their net worth. In contrast, renters do not participate in the appreciation of the property they live in and miss out on this wealth-building opportunity.

Homeownership also comes with tax benefits, such as deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes but with such a high portion of taxpayers electing to take the standard deduction, the more important tax benefit is the capital gains exclusion. 

Homeowners can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain on their principal residence if single and up

to $500,000 if married filing jointly. During the five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the

taxpayer must have owned and lived in the home for at least two of the past five years.

These advantages contribute to lowering the overall cost of homeownership and increasing the financial cushion for homeowners.

Owning a home can have positive implications for retirement readiness. As homeowners pay down their mortgages, they are essentially building a valuable asset that can be leveraged in retirement. Borrowing against one's home is not a taxable event.  The proceeds could be used for any reason.  Furthermore, owning a home outright eliminates the need for monthly rent payments during retirement, providing greater financial security.

Additional sources to support the claim that homeownership has net worth advantages include:

  • The National Association of Realtors regularly releases reports that analyze the financial benefits of homeownership, including equity accumulation and property appreciation.
  • The Case-Shiller Home Price Index tracks changes in the value of residential real estate, offering insights into property appreciation trends over time.
  • U.S. Census Bureau data offers a broader perspective on homeownership rates, wealth distribution, and their impact on net worth.

The numbers speak for themselves ... homeowners tend to enjoy a higher net worth compared to renters. The combination of equity building, property appreciation, tax advantages, and retirement preparedness contribute to this financial advantage. While individual circumstances vary, it's clear that homeownership offers a pathway to building wealth and securing a more robust financial future.

For more information, download our Homeowners Tax Guide.

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Clinton Hanks

Born and raised in Mendocino County, I know the people and the property of the North Bay and the North Coast. I left the area right after high school to serve in the U.S. Navy and after seeing the wor....

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