In 1981 interest rates were at an average of 18.45% as the federal reserve was in the midst of a battle with inflation. The average home price in the United States was $82,500 and the affordability of homes in the US was at an all time low as most everyone was priced out of the market.
In todays dollars and using the current average US home price of approximately $325,000, the total payments over 30 years would equal $1.43 million with $1.18 million in interest.
Fast forward to today and we are still enjoying near all time low interest rates where the same $325,000 house would result in $446,000 in total payments
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Source: finance.yahoo.com, interest.com