What did a DC-area house cost when Reagan was President?

WASHINGTON — The National Association of Realtors will release its annual buyer and seller survey later this month. It began doing the survey in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States, and the local housing market is a lot different from what it was 35 years ago.

One obvious difference? Price.

The median price of a home in the Washington metro area 35 years ago was — wait for it — about $88,000. Today, the median price is closer to $407,000, the NAR says.

Mortgage rates are the other notable difference. “When you look back to the 1980s, there was actually double-digit interest rates, a little above 15 percent [on a 30-year mortgage], so not the historical lows that we’re seeing today of below 4 percent,” NAR’s Jessica Lautz told WTOP.

Here’s some math to put that in perspective. An $88,000 loan at 15.2 percent meant a monthly payment of $1,130. A $407,000 loan at 3.5 percent (roughly today’s 30-year rate) is about $1,830.

Even more fun math: Today’s $407,000 mortgage in Washington at 1981’s 15.2 percent mortgage rate would have been about $5,200 a month.

The NAR survey has also been asking about the internet for the last 20 years.

“We started asking about the internet in 1995, and we were a little ahead of the time then. Only 2 percent of homebuyers were looking on the internet then, which is laughable. Today, now more than 90 percent of buyers are searching online,” Lautz says.

Thirty-five years ago, more than 40 percent of homebuyers were first-time buyers. Today it is closer to 30 percent.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up