Median-Priced Homes Not Affordable for Average Wage Earners in Most U.S. Housing Markets

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Median home prices in the second quarter of 2019 were not affordable for average wage earners in 74 percent of U.S. counties.

That’s according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions that analyzed median home prices derived from publicly recorded sales deed data collected by the company and average wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 480 U.S. counties with a combined population of more than 234 million people.

The largest populated counties where a median-priced home in the second quarter of 2019 was not affordable for average wage earners included Los Angeles County, Cook County (Chicago), Maricopa County (Phoenix), San Diego County and Orange County

The 127 counties where a median-priced home in the second quarter of 2019 was still affordable for average wage earners included Harris County (Houston), Wayne County (Detroit), Philadelphia County, Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Franklin County (Columbus).

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. That required income was then compared to annualized average weekly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Despite falling mortgage rates and rising wages, the cost of owning the typical home remains out of reach or a significant financial stretch for the nation’s average wage earners,” Todd Teta, ATTOM Data Solutions chief product officer, said in a statement. “However, a closer look at the data reveals milder-than-usual increases for the spring, and none as severe as in previous years since the recession. Therefore, this can help indicate the market may be easing, following similar indicators from recent home-flipping and foreclosure data trends.

Home price appreciation outpaced average weekly wage growth in 40 percent of counties analyzed in the report, while average weekly wage growth outpaced home price appreciation in 60 percent of counties analyzed in the report.

Among the 480 counties analyzed in the report, 61 percent were less affordable than their historic affordability averages in the second quarter of 2019, up from 50 percent of counties in the previous quarter but down from 74 percent of counties in the second quarter of 2018.

On the other hand, 39 percent of counties were more affordable than their historic affordability averages in the second quarter of 2019.

In Massachusetts, the median single-family sale price rose 4.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in May to $410,000, which marked an all-time high for the month of May, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman. There were 5,675 single-family home sales recorded in Massachusetts in May, a 7.3 percent increase from May 2018 when there were 5,290 transactions, Year-to-date, there were 19,699 single-family home sales as of May 31 – a 2 percent increase from the first five months of 2018 – with a median sale price of $385,000 – a 5.4 percent increase on the same basis. Meanwhile, the median sale price spiked 5.7 percent to $400,500 – the highest price ever recorded for the month of May and the first time the median sale price has exceeded $400,000 in any month. Year-to-date, there have been 8,743 condo sales with a median sale price of $370,000.