With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019, according to the new National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).
And for the Washington area, high incomes helped to offset the pricey cost of housing, with the resulting regional opportunity index higher than the national average.
In all, 63.6 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of July and end of September were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $75,500, according to new data. This is up from the 60.9 percent of homes sold in the second quarter of 2019 that were affordable to median-income earners, and slightly higher than a first quarter 2019 reading of 62.6.
The national median home price was $280,000 in the third quarter, flat from the previous quarter but a jump from the first quarter, when the median price was $260,000. At the same time, average mortgage rates fell from 4.07 percent in the second quarter to 3.73 percent in the third quarter, reaching a three-year low.
“With mortgage rates at historic lows, consumers are experiencing greater buying power and increased affordability,” said NAHB chairman Greg Ugalde, a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn. “Despite this positive development, builders still struggle with rising construction costs due to labor shortages and excessive regulations, which will continue to make housing affordability a major challenge.”
The Washington area posted an opportunity index of reading of 69, meaning nearly seven in ten buyers could afford to purchase a home at the regional median sales price of $408,000. That figure incorporates data related to the sale of about 20,000 new and existing homes during the quarter.
(For the most part, the Washington region’s opportunity index has stayed in the high 60s to low 70s for the past six years.)
In the third quarter, Scranton, Pa., was the nation’s most affordable major housing market. There, 89.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the third quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $67,000. Meanwhile, Monroe, Mich., was rated the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 95.3 percent of homes sold in the third quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $79,000.
Rounding out the top five affordable major housing markets in respective order were Indianapolis; Youngstown, Ohio; Syracuse;and Harrisburg.
Smaller markets joining Monroe, Mich., at the top of the list included Cumberland, Md.; Davenport, Iowa; Kokomo, Ind.; and Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Ken.
San Francisco again ranked as the nation’s least affordable major market. There, just 8.4 percent of the homes sold in the third quarter of 2019 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $133,800.
Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were located in California. In descending order, they included Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and San Diego.
All five least-affordable small-housing markets were found in the Golden State. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Salinas, where a mere 13.4 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $74,100.