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Median Home Prices Still Unaffordable for Average U.S. Wage Earners

Median home prices in the just-completed fourth quarter of last year were unaffordable for average…

  • January 18, 2020

Median home prices in the just-completed fourth quarter of last year were unaffordable for average wage earners in 344 of 486, or 71 percent of the U.S. counties analyzed in a new report from property data provider ATTOM Data Solutions.

That figure was down from 73 percent in third quarter and 75 percent from a year earlier.

The report determined affordability for average wage earners by calculating the amount of income needed to make monthly house payments — including mortgage, property taxes and insurance — on a median-priced home, assuming a 3 percent down payment and a 28 percent maximum “front-end” debt-to-income ratio.

Home price appreciation outpacing wage growth in 76 percent of markets

Home price appreciation outpaced average weekly wage growth in 369 of the 486 counties analyzed in the report (76 percent), with the largest counties including Los Angeles County, CA; Cook County (Chicago), IL; Harris County (Houston), TX; Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ; and San Diego County, CA.

Average annualized wage growth outpaced home price appreciation in 117 of the 486 counties (24 percent), including Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles); Miami-Dade County, FL; Kings County (Brooklyn), NY; Queens County, NY and Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA.

At least 30 percent of wages needed to buy a home in two-thirds of markets

Among the 486 counties analyzed in the report, 311 (64 percent) required at least 30 percent of their annualized weekly wages to buy a home in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Those counties that required the greatest percent included Marin County, CA (outside San Francisco) (111.2 percent of annualized weekly wages needed to buy a home); Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (103.6 percent); Santa Cruz County, CA, (outside San Jose) (103 percent); Monterey County, CA, (outside San Francisco) (88 percent) and Maui County, HI (84.9 percent).

A total of 175 counties in the report (36 percent) required less than 30 percent of their annualized weekly wages to buy a home in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Those counties that required the smallest percent included Baltimore City/County, MD (11.2 percent of annualized weekly wages needed to buy a home); Bibb County (Macon), GA (12.4 percent); Rock Island County (Davenport), IL (14.4 percent); Wayne County (Detroit), MI (15.2 percent) and Richmond County (Augusta), GA (15.2 percent).

Fifty-three percent of markets more affordable than historic averages

Among the 486 counties in the report, 256 (53 percent) were more affordable than their historic affordability averages in the fourth quarter of 2019, up from 48 percent in the third quarter of 2019 and 29 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018.

Counties with at least 1 million people that were more affordable than their historic averages (indexes of at least 100 are considered more affordable compared to their historic averages) included Cook County (Chicago), IL (index of 119); Montgomery County, MD (outside Washington, D.C.) (118); New York County (Manhattan), NY (118); Suffolk County, NY (outside New York City) (114); and Fairfax County, VA (outside Washington, D.C.) (111).

Counties with the highest affordability indexes were Fairfield County, CT (outside New Haven) (index of 137); Baltimore City/County, MD (135); Lake County, IL (outside Chicago) (135); Onslow County (Jacksonville), NC (134) and Atlantic County (Atlantic City), NJ (131).

Forty-seven percent of markets less affordable than historic averages

Among the 486 counties analyzed in the report, 230 (47 percent) were less affordable than their historic affordability averages in the fourth quarter of 2019, down from 52 percent of counties in the previous quarter and 71 percent of counties in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Counties with a population greater than 1 million that were less affordable than their historic averages (indexes of less than 100 are considered less affordable compared to their historic averages) included Wayne County (Detroit), MI (index of 78); Tarrant County (Fort Worth), TX (83); Dallas County, TX (85); Oakland County, MI (outside Detroit) (86) and Travis County (Austin), TX (88).

Counties with the lowest affordability indexes were Vanderburgh County (Evansville), IN (index of 69); Genessee County (Flint), MI (72); Canyon County (Nampa), ID (74); Benton County (Kennewick), WA (76) and Blount County, TN (outside Knoxville) (77).

Among the counties with at least 1 million people, none saw their annual affordability indexes get worse.

Counties that did see the biggest year-over-year fallback in their affordability indexes included Saint Louis County, MO (index down 16 percent); Jefferson County (Watertown), NY (down 16 percent); Saint Louis City/County, MO (down 15 percent); Jasper County (Joplin), MO (down 12 percent) and Saint Clair County, MI (outside Detroit) (down 10 percent).

Find out more at www.attomdata.com.