Falling Home Prices Drive Increased Affordability in Q2: Study

Is increased affordability the same thing as affordable? Falling U.S. home prices, along with mortgage rates that have held relatively stable thus far, yielded an improving picture of housing affordability nationwide during the secondary quarter, according to a study released Tuesday afternoon by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC). “Today’s HOI reading shows that 55 percent of all new and existing homes that were sold during the second quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $61,500,” said NAHB president Sandy Dunn. But that still means 45 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the second quarter were classified as unaffordably relative to national median income; and it begs the question of at what point do home prices begin to reflect something resembling “affordable” from an economic standpoint? Indianapolis maintained its standing as the most affordable major U.S. housing market for the 12th consecutive time in the second quarter of 2008, the NAHB said in a press statement; not surprisingly, nationwide, homes became more affordable for the third consecutive quarter. Home prices have fallen precipitously during the past three quarters, as well, driving much of the increases in affordability. In the nation’s most affordable major housing market of Indianapolis, 91.6 percent of homes sold in the second quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median household income of $65,100. Also near the top of the list for affordable major metros this time around were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.; Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich.; and Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich., in that order. For the first time since the affordability index was established in 1991, a California city didn’t rank as the nation’s least affordable — for the second quarter, that distinction went to New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. In the New York market, 11.4 percent of new and existing homes sold during the second quarter were affordable to those earning the area’s median family income of $63,000. Other major metros at the bottom of the housing affordability chart included San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., Miami-Miami Beach- Kendall, Fla.; and Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., in that order. Which means some of these areas — particularly Los Angeles and Miami — may yet have further to fall in pricing before reaching a correction point. For more information, click here. Disclosure: The author held no positions in WFC when this story was published; indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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