Home sale profits rise to the highest level in 13 years

by Liz Hughes

In 2021, home sale profits rose in more than 90% of the country’s housing markets and reached the highest level since 2008. 

Last year, a typical home sale brought sellers a profit of $94,092, up 45% from $64,931 in 2020 and an increase of 71% from 2019’s $55,000, according to ATTOM’s Year-End 2021 U.S. Home Sales Report. That $94,092 profit was a 45.3% return on investment when compared to the original purchase price. 

The report also found raw profits and ROI improved nationally for 10 years in a row, and last year’s gain was the largest annual increase since 2013. The increase in profits came as the national median home price rose 16.9% last year to $301,000, setting another annual record. 

The spike in profits was driven by historically low interest rates, as well as buyers seeking to buy more space through the pandemic. A tight home supply drove up prices and thus seller profits. 

“Households that escaped job losses from the pandemic dove into the market, in large part as a response to the crisis,” ATTOM chief product officer Todd Teta said in a release. “And the rising demand led the market boom onward. No doubt, there are warning signs that the surge could slow down this year. But 2021 will go down as one of the greatest years for sellers and one of the toughest for buyers.”

Last year also had the highest number of sales since 2005, with more than 5.7 million homes and condominiums trading hands. 

The report found all but four of the 173 metros with populations of 200,000 or more had median price increases from 2020, and 124 had prices rise at least 10%. The largest year-over-year increases were in Worcester (39.6%), Barnstable (39.2%) and Boston (28.8%), Massachusetts; Boise, Idaho (27.2%); and Phoenix (26%).

The largest increases in areas with populations of at least one million were in Austin, Texas (25.4%), Nashville, Tenn. (22.2%), and Las Vegas (21.5%).

The report found 168 of the cities in the survey reached highs they hadn’t seen since the Great Recession, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston. 

Median prices dropped in just four metros last year, but by single digits or less: Gulfport, Miss., with a 4.9% decline; Peoria, Ill., with a 1.8% drop; Beaumont, Texas, with a 1.4% decline; and Kansas City, Mo., where prices slipped 0.7%. 

Homeownership tenure and cash sales

The report also found homeownership tenure fell to nearly a 10-year low. Those who sold their home in the last quarter of 2021 had only owned them an average of 6.14 years, down from 6.34 years in the previous quarter and 8.03 years in the last quarter of 2020. Lakeland, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.;. Cleveland, Ohio; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Torrington, Conn.; had the lowest year-over-year declines. 

Cash sales also hit a new high in 2021, accounting for 30.3% of sales — the highest level since 2015. Cash sales rose 22.8% from 2020 and 25% from 2019. 

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