Home Price Affordability Scale Tipping in Western Metros

With most metropolitan areas continuing to log strong yearly home price growth through the fourth quarter of 2013, the scale is starting to tip in certain areas in terms of affordability. 

Metros in the West are among those with less favorable pricing conditions for buyers, according to an annual affordability report by the National Association of Realtors, which also recently issued its latest quarterly report. 

Prices for the median existing single-family home jumped in nearly three-quarters (73%) of measured markets as 119 out of 165 metropolitan statistical areas logged gains, based on closings in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the same quarter the previous year.

However, that marks a decrease in the number of rising markets compared to the third quarter, when price increases were recorded in 88% of metro areas from the year before, according to NAR, with a third rising at a double-digit rate.

There are pros and cons to rising home prices, economists say. 

“The vast majority of homeowners have seen significant gains in equity over the past two years, which is helping the economy through increased consumer spending,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, in a release. “At the same time, home prices have been rising faster than incomes, while mortgage interest rates are above the record lows of a year ago. This is beginning to hamper housing affordability.”

Four of the five most expensive housing markets in 2013’s fourth quarter are in California: San Jose, with a median existing single-family price of $775,000; San Francisco, at $682,400; Anaheim-Santa Ana at $666,300; and San Diego, at $476,800. Honolulu, Hawaii, rounded out the top five with a median price of $670,80.

In contrast, the national median price for an existing single-family home in the fourth quarter was $196,900, up 10.1% from a year ago, says NAR. 

“The national figures provide useful background, but it really gets down to supply and demand in a given neighborhood,” said NAR President Steve Brown. “Metropolitan area figures are an excellent gauge of local housing markets, but there can be widely ranging conditions within a metro area.”

On the other side of the scale are the five lowest-cost metro areas: Toledo, Ohio with a median single-family price of $80,500; Rockford, Ill, at $81,400; Cumberland, Md., at $89,500; Elmira, N.Y., at $99,500; and South Bend, Ind., at $101,100. 

Two of those metro areas, Toledo and Rockford, are among the metro areas with the greatest housing affordability conditions in 2013, along with Decatur and Springfield, Ill., and Lansing-East Lansing, Mich. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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