Nationwide housing affordability rose to a record level during the fourth quarter of 2011, while prospective home buyers continued to feel the constraints of tighter credit standards and a soft economy, according to National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index data released last month.
The index indicated that 75.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index.
Despite the finding, overly restrictive lending conditions confronting home buyers and builders "remain significant obstacles to many potential homes sales, even with interest rates at historically low levels," says Barry Rutenberg, NAHB chairman and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.
In Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, Pa., the most affordable major housing market in the country during the fourth quarter, 95.1 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to households earning the area's median family income of $54,900.
Also ranking at the top of the most affordable major housing markets, in descending order were Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; Modesto, Calif.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.
In Spokane, housing affordability was greater than it was nationally, with more than four out of five homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2011 affordable for median-income households.
More specifically, 85.2 percent of homes sold here could have been bought by households with the area's median income of $62,100, the study found. At that level of affordability, Spokane ranked 78th nationallyup from 95th last yearamong the 225 markets included in the study. It outranked all other measured markets in Washington and Oregon, and among other markets in Idaho and Montana, it trailed only Great Falls, Mont., and just by one-tenth of percentage point.
Other cities in Washington included in the survey were Tacoma, 126th; Olympia, 159th; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, 188th; Mount Vernon-Anacortes, 193rd; and Bellingham, 204th. In Bellingham, just 64.1 percent of home sold there could have been bought by households with the area's median income of $66,800, the data showed.
Among smaller housing markets nationally, the most affordable was Kokomo, Ind., where 99.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2011 were affordable to families earning the median income of $59,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Fairbanks, Alaska; Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.; Lima, Ohio; and Rockford, Ill.
In New York-White Plain-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., the least affordable major housing market during the 2011 fourth quarter, 29.0 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area's median income of $67,400. This was the 15th consecutive quarter in which the New York metropolitan division held this position.
Other major metro areas at the bottom of the affordability index included Honolulu; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., respectively.
Ocean City, N.J., where 47.5 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $70,100, was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Laredo, Texas; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; and Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo index is a measure of the percentage of homes sold in a given area that are affordable to families earning that area's median income during a specific quarter. Prices of new and existing homes sold are collected from actual court records by First American Real Estate Solutions. Mortgage financing conditions incorporate interest rates on fixed- and adjustable-rate loans reported by the Federal Housing Finance Board.
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