About 23 percent of first-time home buyers in California were able to afford a median-priced home in second-quarter 2006, compared with 30 percent in second-quarter 2005, according to a new index developed by the California Association of Realtors.

C.A.R.’s First-time Buyer Housing Affordability Index measures the percentage of first-time buyer households that can afford to purchase a home in California. C.A.R. also reports first-time buyer indexes for regions and select counties within the state. The Index is a measure of housing well-being for first-time buyers in the state.

The minimum household income first-time buyers needed to purchase a home at $482,000 in California in the second quarter was $98,720, based on an adjustable interest rate of 6.48 percent and assuming a 10 percent down payment. First-time buyers typically purchase a home equal to 85 percent of the prevailing median price. The monthly payment including taxes and insurance was $3,290 for the second quarter of 2006.

At 39 percent, the High Desert region was the most affordable C.A.R. region in the state, followed by the Sacramento region at 38 percent. Santa Barbara was the least affordable region in the state at 14 percent, followed by San Luis Obispo at 17 percent, the association reported.

C.A.R. began producing its Housing Affordability Index in 1984. At that time, fixed-rate mortgages were the prevailing form of financing a home purchase, while the calculations used to produce the HAI reflected a 20 percent down payment. The methodology also assumed a monthly payment for principal, interest, taxes and insurance that was no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

In the more than two decades since the California Association of Realtors first conceived that index, the mortgage finance landscape has changed dramatically, the association reported.

“The range of mortgage products available to buyers as well as underwriting criteria has changed. C.A.R. developed the new index measuring affordability for first-time home buyers to better reflect the realities of today’s real estate market,” according to the announcement.

Quarterly historical data for housing affordability from 2003-06 is available at http://www.car.org/index.php?id=MzY0ODU. A separate index reflecting affordability for repeat buyers will be released by C.A.R. later this year.

The California Association of Realtors has about 195,000 members.

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