The National Association of Realtors' affordability index broke the 200 mark for the first time ever, rising to 206.1 in January.

NAR President Moe Veissi said the breakthrough means a typical family has roughly double the income needed to purchase a median-priced home.

“For buyers who can qualify for a mortgage, now is a very good time to become a homeowner," he said.

The index is based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate. A score of 100 is defined as the point where a median-income household has exactly enough income to qualify for the purchase of a median-priced, existing single-family home.

Considering the likelihood that interest rates and home prices will change little in the near future, NAR projects its affordability index to remain at elevated levels throughout 2012.

jhilley@housingwire.com