Money & The Economy

U.S. home prices least affordable in a decade

U.S. home prices in the first quarter were at the least affordable level since Q3 2008 according to ATTOM Data Solutions report and California is home to three of the top 5 least affordable counties.

The Q2 2018 U.S. Home Affordability Report calculates an affordability index based on percentage of income needed to buy a median-priced home relative to historic averages, with an index above 100 indicating median home prices are more affordable than the historic average, and an index below 100 indicating median home prices are less affordable than the historic average. (See full methodology below.)

Nationwide, the Q2 2018 home affordability index of 95 was down from an index of 102 in the previous quarter and an index of 103 in Q2 2017 to the lowest level since Q3 2008, when the index was 86.

“Slowing home price appreciation in the second quarter was not enough to counteract an 11 percent increase in mortgage rates compared to a year ago, resulting in the worst home affordability we’ve seen in nearly 10 years,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Meanwhile home price appreciation continued to outpace wage growth, speeding up the affordability treadmill for prospective homebuyers even without the rise in mortgage rates.”

Home prices rising faster than wages in 64 percent of local markets
Nationwide the median home price of $245,000 in Q2 2018 was up 4.7 percent from a year, down from 7.4 percent appreciation in the first quarter but still above the average weekly wage growth of 3.3 percent. Since bottoming out in Q1 2012, median home prices nationwide have increased 75 percent while average weekly wages have increased 13 percent during the same period.

Annual growth in median home prices outpaced average wage growth in 275 of the 432 counties analyzed in the report (64 percent), including Los Angeles County, CaliforniaMaricopa County(Phoenix), ArizonaSan Diego County, CaliforniaOrange County, California; and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Lowest home affordability indexes in FlintDenverSanta FeNashville
Counties with the lowest home affordability indexes in Q2 2018 were Genesee County (Flint), Michigan(70); Denver County, Colorado (72); Adams County (Denver area), Colorado (73); Santa Fe County, New Mexico (73); and Wilson County (Nashville area), Tennessee (75).

Among 40 counties with a population of at least 1 million, those with the lowest home affordability indexes in Q2 2018 were Travis County (Austin), Texas (77); Alameda County (San Francisco area), California (81); Santa Clara County (San Jose), California (82); Oakland County (Detroit area), Michigan(82); and San Francisco County, California (83).

Highest share of income needed to buy a home in Bay AreaBrooklyn
Nationwide an average wage earner would need to spend 31.2 percent of his or her income to buy a median-priced home in Q2 2018, above the historic average of 29.6 percent.

Counties with median home prices requiring the highest share of average wage earner income were Marin County (San Francisco area), California (133.2 percent); Kings County (Brooklyn), New York (123.1 percent); Santa Cruz County, California (121.5 percent); Monterey County (Salinas), California (100.3 percent); and San Francisco County, California (97.2 percent).

Counties with median home prices requiring the lowest share of average wage earner income were Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan (13.5 percent); Clayton County, Georgia (13.7 percent); Rock Island(Quad Cities), Illinois (15.8 percent); Saginaw County, Michigan (16.4 percent); and Richmond County(Augusta), Georgia (16.4 percent).

Median home prices not affordable for average wage earners in 75 percent of local markets
An average wage earner would not qualify to buy a median-priced home in 326 of the 432 counties (75 percent) analyzed in the report based on a 3 percent down payment and a maximum front-end debt-to-income ratio of 28 percent.

Counties where an average wage earner could not afford to buy a median-priced home in Q2 2018 included Los Angeles County, CaliforniaCook County (Chicago), IllinoisMaricopa County (Phoenix), ArizonaSan Diego County, California; and Orange County, California.

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Carl Fox

Carl Fox is the senior money and finance writer for Conservative Daily News. Follow him in the "Money & The Economy" section at CDN and see his posts on the "Junior Economists" Facebook page.

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