Money & The Economy

Home Costs Rising Twice As Fast As Americans’ Incomes

The cost to afford a median-priced home has increased at twice the rate that the average household income has risen as inflation and high interest rates inflame housing expenses, according to Redfin.

The median monthly home payment in February was $2,838, up 12% year-over-year, while the median household income was just $84,072, an increase of 6% over the last year, according to Redfin. Over the past decade, the income needed to afford a home has tracked closely with the median household income until around the start of 2022, when the amount of household income needed skyrocketed to its current median of $113,520 a year, as inflation, supply constraints, and high mortgage rates all raised costs.

Housing prices have moderated slightly since their all-time high in October, when the average rate for a 30-year mortgage neared 8%, but still remain high with mortgage rates slightly under 7%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. When mortgage rates were at their recent peak in October, the median monthly house payment was $3,021, according to Redfin.

“For over a decade, America has been slowly marching toward a housing affordability crisis due to chronic underbuilding, and that crisis was kicked into overdrive when the pandemic homebuying boom fueled a meteoric rise in housing prices,” Elijah de la Campa, senior economist at Redfin, said in the report. “Now there’s another culprit squeezing homebuyers: elevated mortgage rates. We’re slowly climbing our way out of an affordability hole, but we have a long way to go. Rates have come down from their peak, and are expected to fall again by the end of the year, which should make homebuying a little more affordable and incentivize buyers to come off the sidelines.”

Home prices alone have risen far higher than the rate of general inflation, with the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index increasing 6.0% in January year-over-year, up from 5.6% in December. Inflation has continued to remain elevated, most recently rising 3.2% in February, far higher than the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%.

In an attempt to tame inflation, the Fed set its federal funds rate to a range of 5.25% and 5.50%, the highest range in 23 years, which has put upward pressure on interest rates across the economy, particularly mortgage rates.

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