Some 59 percent of California households had sufficient income in the fourth quarter of 2008 to buy an entry-level home in the state, up sharply from 33 percent a year earlier, according to data from the California Association of Realtors’ First-Time Buyer Housing Affordability Index.

The index found that a minimum household income of $48,900 would buy a starter home at $248,030 in the fourth quarter, based on an adjustable interest rate of 6.02 percent and assuming a 10 percent down payment. The monthly payment including taxes and insurance was $1,630 for the fourth quarter.

At $48,900, the minimum qualifying income was 42 percent lower than a year earlier when households needed $83,700 to qualify for a loan on an entry-level home. Recent decreases in home prices and mortgage rates have brought affordability into better alignment with income levels of the typical California households, where the median household income is $59,160.

At 76 percent, the High Desert region was the most affordable area in the state, while the San Luis Obispo County region was the least affordable in the state at 44 percent, followed by the Los Angeles County region at 46 percent.

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