If you add up the value of every house on every street in every town in the United States, you come up with a very big number -- $29.6 trillion, to be exact.
Zillow.com has spent its entire existence combing county property records and mining other housing data to come up with this big, (nearly) round number, with which it has a little fun at the end of every year.
Just how gargantuan is $29.6 trillion? As Zillow points out, it would take Bill Gates and the next 399 richest U.S. citizens to buy up all the housing stock in the U.S. It is also worth as much as the combined market capitalization of every U.S. public company.
New York's housing market alone, worth $2.4 trillion, is roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of France.
Zillow gives each of the 110 million homes in the U.S. an assigned dollar value, explained Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow. Those values come from public property records, census data and other inputs.Then it uses algorithms to parse the data.
Compared to previous years, 2016 is a banner year for home values, up 5.7 percent. The total value has not only recovered from the housing market collapse, when the cumulative value dropped $6.4 trillion between 2006 and 2012. But it has also set a new record.
If the recovery has done one thing, it has turned housing from a national story to a local one, Terrazas noted. "We have some strong markets now, and some that have slowed down, but I don't think anyone thinks there's a bubble again," he said.
Zillow's report says that 60 percent of the markets in the U.S. are still below what should be their maximum housing values. So there's plenty of room to grow, if the market can keep pumping out new construction and turning over existing homes. But inventory has been tight and new construction has been limited so far.
To help track where the housing market will go next, Zillow tabulated another big number - the total rent paid in 2016, which was $478.5 billion, up 4 percent from 2015
For the housing market to rise, some of those folks need to be lured to houses, where there is still a strong financial incentive to switch from renting to buying. But that's where real estate really becomes local, because the math depends on how house prices in your area compare to rental rates, and what inventory is available. .
Here are the top 10 markets according to Zillow: