Homeownership has moved further out of reach, with affordability measured in the ATTOM Data Solutions Q4 2016 Home Affordability Index falling steeply in the fourth quarter to its lowest level since 2008. The Index, which is based on the percentage of average wages needed to make a monthly house payment on a median-priced home, with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and 3 percent down payment, including insurance and property taxes, read 103 in the fourth quarter, down from 108 in the third quarter and 116 one year ago. Affordability has been deeply impacted by stagnant wages, says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM.
“Rapid home price appreciation and tepid wage growth have combined to erode home affordability during this housing recovery, and the recent uptick in mortgage rates only accelerated that trend in the fourth quarter,” Blomquist says. “The prospect of further interest rate hikes in 2017 will likely cause further deterioration of home affordability next year. Absent a strong resurgence in wage growth, that will put downward pressure on home price appreciation in many local markets.”
The average percentage of wages needed to afford a median-priced home across the counties analyzed in the Index was 36.9 percent in the fourth quarter, below the historic average of 39.1 percent. Twenty-nine percent of counties in the U.S. were less affordable than their historic affordability averages, a surge from last year’s 13 percent.
Eighty-one percent of counties in the U.S. saw home prices outpace wages in the fourth quarter. Since 2012, the national median home price has grown 60 percent, while average weekly wages have grown just 1 percent, according to ATTOM.
Counties with the lowest affordability were Cumberland County, Tenn., Genesse County, Mich., Denver County, Colo., Adams County, Colo., and Wilson County, Tenn. Counties with the lowest affordability based on the wage standard were Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y. (127.2 percent of wages); Santa Cruz County, Calif. (113.7 percent); Marin County (San Francisco), Calif. (111.9 percent); Summit County (Summit Park), Utah (105.3 percent); and New York County (Manhattan), N.Y. (102.6 percent).
Eighteen percent of counties in the U.S., however, were more affordable in the fourth quarter, according to the Index. Counties with the most affordability based on the wage standard were Clayton County, Ga. (10.4 percent of wages); Roane County (Knoxville), Tenn. (11.8 percent); Bay County (Bay City), Mich. (13.0 percent); Bibb County (Macon), Ga. (13.3 percent); and Richmond County (Augusta), Ga. (14.0 percent).
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