An interesting graph from the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno compares growth in median homes values in the Reno-Sparks area* with growth in wages.
First, a little bit of background. Reno-Sparks existing home values grew strongly pre-recession and declined just as strongly during and following the recession (the recession officially ended in 2009 and area prices did not begin recovering until 2012). Historically (ignoring the boom and bust of the 2000s), area home prices increased by almost 1% per quarter or 4% per year. The figure below shows quarterly existing home prices in the region (red line) compared to what prices should have been had they followed the 4% “normal” appreciation (blue line). The figure shows actual prices reached normal prices by the end of 2015, into the first quarter of 2016. This is the point where our home values can be considered to be neither overvalued (as they were pre-recession) or undervalued (as they were during the recession) using historical expectations of price growth.
This brings us to the wages vs. home values graph (below). The graph shows changes in home values and wages in the area between 1Q2012 and 1Q2019. However, as discussed above, homes were effectively undervalued until 4Q2015, so the graph ignores this period. The graph shows that from 1Q2016 to 1Q2019, home values in the area increased by 27%.
The graph also shows MSA wages increased by 17% over the three-year period. Given the inflation (CPI) growth during the same period of 6.5% (Bureau of Labor Statistics), we can say wages outpaced inflation, which is a great metric for the area. However, wage growth was significantly below growth in home prices during the period.
The graph shows home value growth rates began to decline starting 2Q2018, even becoming negative in 1Q2019 (-0.1%), while wages grew relatively steadily since 2012. In fact, the MSA has posted six straight quarters with wage increases above 3% (above inflation rates), and nine out of the last 11 quarters are above 3%. Also, while 2Q2019 wage data is not yet available, 2Q2019 values increased by 4% compared to the same period last year. This is the type of healthy, but moderate appreciation the market needs. As we close out 2019 and enter the next decade, hopefully our economy will reach the happy medium between wage growth and home appreciation with both increasing on a similar trajectory.
*Reno-Sparks MSA includes Washoe and Storey counties. We like to look at wages at the MSA level as it includes employees of the region’s largest employment center, Tahoe Reno Industrial. In 2017 (latest data available from the US Census Bureau), 63% of Storey County employees lived in Washoe County, having significant impact on housing demand in the MSA. Storey County does not have significant home sales, as a result the graph shows only data for the Reno-Sparks area.