Falling mortgage rates and stagnant home prices are making a positive effect on home affordability nationwide. Never before in recorded history have so many homes been affordable to households earning a moderate annual income.
Last week, the National Association of Home Builders reported the Home Opportunity Index at 77.5 — its highest reading of all-time. The index indicates that more than 3 of every 4 homes sold last quarter were affordable to households earning the national median income of $65,000.
Last quarter marks the 12th straight quarter — dating back to 2009 — in which the index surpassed 70. Prior to this run, the index had never crossed 70 even once.
That said, like most real estate statistics, the Home Affordability Index has a national purview. National data is of little value to homeowners in specific cities , or in specific neighborhoods.
Last quarter, home affordability varied by region.
In the Midwest, for example, affordability was highest. 7 of the top 10 most affordable markets nationwide were spread throughout Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. The top two spots, however, went to an East Region town (Cumberland) and a Pacific Northwest Region city (Fairbanks, Alaska), respectively.
The top 5 most affordable cities for home buyers in Q1 2012 were:
- Cumberland, MD (99.0%)
- Fairbanks, AK (98.9%)
- Wheeling, WV (97.0%)
- Kokomo, IN (95.8%)
- Indianapolis, IN (95.8%)
At #17, the Lakeland/Winter Haven, Florida area was the top-ranked South Region city last quarter.
By contrast, the Northeast Region and Southern California ranked among the least affordable housing markets — again. Led by the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ area, 8 of the 10 least affordable areas were in the Mid-Atlantic and California, and for the 16th consecutive quarter the New York metro area was ranked “Least Affordable”.
Just 31.5 percent of homes were affordable to households earning the area median income there, up from 25.2 percent six months ago.
The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available for download on the NAHB website.