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Home Affordability Increases in Q3

ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q3 2017 U.S. Home Affordability Index, released October 5, indicated that home affordability in the third quarter improved compared to the previous quarter in 60 percent of 406 U.S. counties analyzed in the report — although affordability was still worse than a year ago in 79 percent of those counties.

The Index witnessed an increase compared to the previous quarter (meaning homes were more affordable) in 243 of the 406 counties analyzed in the report (60 percent), including Los Angeles County, California; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; and San Diego County, California.

The Index decreased compared to the previous quarter (meaning homes were less affordable) in 163 (40 percent) of the 406 counties analyzed in the report, including Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan; Middlesex County (Boston), Massachusetts; along with three counties in the New York metro area: Suffolk, Bronx and Westchester.

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The third quarter of 2017, showed the index at 100, the lowest national affordability index since Q3 2008, when the index was 86. A 100 index means the share of average wages needed to buy a median-priced home nationwide in Q3 2017 is on par with historic averages (see full methodology below).

“Falling interest rates in the third quarter provided enough of a cushion to counteract rising home prices in most U.S. markets and provide at least some temporary relief for the home affordability crunch,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “More sustainable relief for the affordability crunch, however, will need to be some combination of slowing home price appreciation and accelerating wage growth. Wage growth is outpacing home price growth in about half of all local markets so far this year, an indication that a more sustainable affordability pattern is taking shape in more local markets.”

Wage Growth Outpacing Home Price Growth

 Annual wage growth outpaced annual home price appreciation in 193 of the 406 counties analyzed in the third quarter (48 percent), down from 216 counties (53 percent) in Q2 2017 and down from 205 counties (50 percent) in Q1 2017 — the first time since Q1 2012 that at least half of all markets saw wage growth outpacing home price growth.

Counties where wage growth outpaced home price growth in Q3 2017 included Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; Orange County, California; San Bernardino County, California; and Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas.

“With Southern California boasting some of the highest average sales prices in the country, our market is a testament to the importance of local community job growth,” said Michael Mahon, president at First Team Real Estate, covering Southern California. “Los Angeles County is experiencing a sluggish job creation environment, creating an even wider gap in housing affordability. But in Orange County, where we are seeing local government partnering with business owners on growth incentives and business owner recruitment. We continue to see an economic environment where wage growth is exceeding the annual cost of housing inflation.”

Since bottoming out nationwide in Q1 2012, median home prices have risen 73 percent while average weekly wages have increased 13 percent over the same period.

Counties where home price growth in Q3 2017 outpaced annual wage growth included Los Angeles County, California; Harris County (Houston), Texas; San Diego County, California; Miami-Dade County, Florida; and Kings County (Brooklyn), New York.

“Housing affordability continues to be the topic that troubles me more than just about anything else. As the data shows, housing in the Seattle region is considered unaffordable, which is not a great surprise given our robust economy and substantial population growth coming out of California,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market, where home price appreciation outpaced wage growth in all three counties in the metro area. “The short-term prognosis is not great. Housing starts remaining well below the long-term average, and we are not seeing the level of resale home sales that one would normally expect. These factors will cause home prices to keep trending higher and, as long as the economy remains strong, demand will continue to exceed supply.”

Home Prices Less Affordable Than Historic Averages

 Home prices were less affordable than their historic affordability averages in 184 out of 406 of the counties analyzed for the index (45 percent), down from 49 percent in the previous quarter but still up from 21 percent a year ago.

Counties with the lowest affordability index in Q3 2017 (meaning home prices were least affordable relative to local historic averages) were Lackawanna County (Scranton), Pennsylvania (72); Genesee County (Flint), Michigan (76); Comal County (San Antonio), Texas (77); Brazoria County (Houston), Texas (77); and Parker County (Dallas), Texas (78).

Among counties with at least a half-million people, those with the lowest affordability index in Q3 2017 were Montgomery County (Houston), Texas (79); Denver County, Colorado (81); Collin County (Dallas), Texas (82); Travis County (Austin), Texas (83); Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan (83); and Davidson County (Nashville), Tennessee (84).

“Home prices are still increasing in Ohio, primarily due to shortage of inventory coupled with high demand, especially among first time homebuyers — mainly due to an increase in employment within the state,” said Matthew Watercutter, senior regional vice president and broker of record for HER Realtors, covering the Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati markets in Ohio, where 16 out 22 counties analyzed (73 percent) were less affordable than historic averages. “Even though the values are increasing, Ohio remains one of the most affordable states in which to live.”

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Buying A Home Requireing Highest Share of Wages

Nationwide, buying a median-priced home in the third quarter of 2017 required 29.5 percent of average wages, on par with the historic average of 29.6 percent.

Buying a median-priced home required the highest percentage of average wages in Kings County (Brooklyn), New York (125.8 percent), followed by Marin County (San Francisco), California (104.7 percent); Santa Cruz County, California (101.6 percent); Westchester County, New York (91.0 percent); and New York County (Manhattan), New York (90.8 percent).

Buying a median-priced home required the lowest percentage of average wages in Clayton County (Atlanta), Georgia (12.0 percent); Bibb County (Macon), Georgia (12.5 percent); Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan (14.5 percent); Rock Island County, Illinois (14.8 percent); and Allen County (Lima), Ohio (15.0 percent).

To read the full report, click here.

Report Methodology

The ATTOM Data Solutions U.S. Home Affordability Index analyzes median home prices derived from publicly recorded sales deed data collected by ATTOM Data Solutions and average wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 406 U.S. counties with a combined population of more than 212 million. The affordability index is based on the percentage of average wages needed to make monthly house payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and a 3 percent down payment, including property taxes, home insurance and mortgage insurance. Average 30-year fixed interest rates from the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey were used to calculate the monthly house payments. Only counties with sufficient home price and wage data quarterly back to Q1 2005 were used in the analysis.

About ATTOM Data Solutions

ATTOM Data Solutions is the curator of the ATTOM Data Warehouse, a multi-sourced national property database that blends property tax, deed, mortgage, foreclosure, environmental risk, natural hazard, health hazards, neighborhood characteristics and other property characteristic data for more than 150 million U.S. residential and commercial properties. The ATTOM Data Warehouse delivers actionable data to businesses, consumers, government agencies, universities, policymakers, and the media in multiple ways, including bulk file licenses, APIs and customized reports.