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Affordability Approaches Pre-2004 Norm as Prices Firm

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By Paul Emrath

Couple in new home, restingHousing affordability dipped slightly in the second quarter of 2014 as several markets saw a firming of home prices, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).  Nationwide, the second quarter HOI was 62.6—i.e., 62.6 percent of new and existing homes sold during the quarter were affordable to a family earning the U.S. median income of $63,900—down about three percentage points from the first quarter reading of 65.5.

The latest readings reflect a slow but steady march toward historically normal appreciation and interest rates, producing an HOI typical of the period before the mid-2000s boom.  In the second quarter of 2014, the average mortgage interest rate declined to 4.44 percent (from 4.57 in the first quarter), while the national median home price increased from $195,000 to $214,000. (The HOI, of course, uses the full range of home sale prices, not just the median.)

Among individual metros, Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa. claimed the title of the nation’s most affordable major housing market, as 90.4 percent of all new and existing homes sold in this year’s second quarter were affordable to a family earning the area’s median income of $52,700. Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. was the most affordable smaller market, with 97.2 percent of homes sold affordable to a family earning the area median income of $54,100.

Other major markets at the top of the affordability chart were Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Smaller markets joining Cumberland at the top of the affordability chart were Kokomo, Ind.; Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Lima, Ohio.

For a seventh consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation’s least affordable major market, with only 11.1 percent of homes sold in the second quarter affordable to a family earning the area’s median income of $100,400.  Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; and New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J.

All five of the nation’s least affordable small housing markets were located in California: Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Napa, Salinas, Santa Rosa-Petaluma, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles.

For additional detail, including the complete set of HOI tables and historic data, please visit nahb.org/hoi.

This post was originally published on the NAHB blog, Eye on Housing.

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