Nationwide housing affordability held near historic highs in this year's first quarter, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). In all, 73.7 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $64,400. This is down slightly from the 74.9 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the final quarter of 2012.
"Thanks to very favorable mortgage rates and prices, housing affordability has remained quite high over the past four years," observed NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "The HOI has not slipped below 70 since the end of 2008. That said, from a builder's perspective, it should be noted that rising costs for building materials, lots and labor are making it somewhat more expensive to construct new homes in today's market."
"HOI results for the beginning of 2013 are little changed from what they were at the end of 2012, with Ogden-Clearfield Utah holding onto the title of the nation's most affordable major housing market and San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. retaining its position as the least affordable major market," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The bottom line is that, for consumers who can qualify for a mortgage at today's attractive rates, the majority of homes being sold remain within their grasp in markets nationwide."
This was the third consecutive quarter in which Ogden-Clearfield hit the top of the affordability chart for major markets. There, 93.4 percent of all new and existing homes sold in this year's first quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $70,800 - essentially unchanged from the 93.7 percent of homes affordable to median-income earners at year-end 2012.
Other major U.S. housing markets at the top of the affordability chart in the first quarter included Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.; Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; and the two New York metros of Syracuse and Albany-Schenectady-Troy tied for the fifth position.
Among smaller housing markets, Mansfield, Ohio, claimed the "most affordable" title this time around, with 97.5 percent of homes sold in the first quarter being affordable to those earning the median income of $54,600. Other small housing markets at the top of the index included Cumberland, Md.-W.Va., followed by Fairbanks, Alaska; Springfield, Ohio; and Dover, Del., respectively.
This was the second consecutive quarter in which the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. metro area hit the bottom of the affordability chart for major markets. There, just 28.9 percent of homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $102,000.
Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart included New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. and the three California metros of Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, in that order.
The least affordable small housing market in the first quarter was Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., where 37.1 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to those earning the area's median family income of $73,800. Other small metros at the bottom of the affordability chart included Salinas, Calif.; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; and Ocean City, N.J.; followed by the metros of Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta and Napa, Calif., which tied for fifth place.