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Slightly lower interest rates and home prices in markets across the country contributed to a slight increase in nationwide housing affordability in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). In all, 62.8 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $63,900. This is up from the 61.8 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the third quarter.
The national median home price declined from $220,800 in the third quarter to $215,000 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage interest rates decreased from 4.35 percent to 4.29 percent in the same period.
"This upturn in affordability for the final quarter of 2014 is a positive development and is in line with what we are hearing from builders in the field that more prospective buyers are starting to move forward in the marketplace," said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo.
"Affordable home prices, historically low mortgage rates and an improving job market will release pent-up demand and help keep the housing market moving forward in the year ahead," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
Syracuse, N.Y. claimed the title of the nation's most affordable major housing market, as 92.8 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $67,700. Also ranking among the most affordable major housing markets in respective order were Akron, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa; the latter two of which tied for fourth place.
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. topped the affordability chart among smaller markets in the final quarter of 2014. There, 96.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $54,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index include Kokomo, Ind.; Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Salisbury, Md.
For a ninth consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation's least affordable major housing market. There, just 11.1 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $100,400.
Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; and New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.
All five least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom was Napa, where 12 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $70,300. Other small markets included Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Rosa-Petaluma, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles; in descending order.