- Home prices are higher in 25 out of 27 markets year-over-year, but only six metro areas saw increases over 1 percent.
The mortgage and consumer loan information company reviewed Realtors’ 2016 first-quarter data for median price and its own first-quarter average interest rates on 30-year fixed rate mortgages to see how much it would cost to afford the “base cost” of owning — including the loan principal, interest taxes and insurance.
Between Pittsburgh and San Francisco there’s a $100,000 difference in salary needed to afford a median-price home, revealing just how much affordability fluctuates across the U.S.
“We’ve seen prices moderating, so affordability is better. But when you look at the year-ago comparison, prices are still fairly elevated,” said Keith Gumbinger, mortgage expert at HSH.com. “It’s just a matter of thinking about where markets are growing most strongly at what times.”
Home prices are higher in 25 out of 27 markets year-over-year, but only six metro areas saw increases over 1 percent, which could be a sign of markets cooling, said Gumbinger.
Least expensive vs. most expensive
In Pittsburgh, buyers need a $29,480.96 salary to afford the median-priced home of $119,950. Pittsburgh home values dropped 6.29 percent quarter-over-quarter, aiding the affordability aspect in Steel City.
In San Francisco, where the 30-year fixed mortgage rate is at 3.81 percent — a 0.13-percent drop since the end of 2015 — the salary needed to afford a home is $144,196.08 per year, assuming buyers put 20 percent down.
Median home price may have dropped 1.45 percent quarter-over-quarter, but the City by the Bay still holds the nation’s highest median home price of $770,300. For buyers who only put 10 percent down in San Francisco, the necessary salary increase to $174,206 per year.
Affordability on the coasts
Outside of the high-low comparison between Pittsburgh and San Francisco, coastal markets face the highest salary requirements based on the median home price.
In Los Angeles, mortgage rates are 3.90 percent, but the median home price is high at $458,900. Los Angeles is the third-most-unaffordable metro area, with an annual salary of $90,180.58 needed for a 30-year fixed mortgage with 20 percent down.
Despite L.A. being the third-most-expensive city in terms of salary requirements, the median home price in dipped 4.77 percent since last quarter and featured the largest salary requirement drop (-$4,859.62) out of the 27 metros studied.
The New York City metro median home price is $381,000, with prices increasing dramatically in areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn. But even at the lower level, the salary requirement with 20 percent down is $85,205.89 per year, a drop of $1,564.30 since last quarter.
D.C. is, surprisingly, more affordable than Seattle at the moment, with a salary requirement of $77,480.54 for a home price of $370,400.
Gumbinger says D.C. didn’t have as much of a downturn to overcome. While most of the country faced the recession, the Washington market was fairly stable.
“When other markets were dragged down by local economies, D.C. chugged along. It’s not seeing the same levels of price growth as other markets see now,” says Gumbinger.
Now, markets like Seattle and Denver that didn’t bounce back as quickly after the downturn are catching up to — or overtaking — D.C. as home prices appreciate.
Florida, Texas and the Midwest
Miami is slightly more affordable with a salary requirement of $62,370.25, but home price rose slightly (0.6 percent) to reach a median $286,700.
With the rising U.S. dollar impacting tourism and home purchases by international investors, many Sunshine State markets are becoming more accessible. Tampa, for instance, featured home price gains of 15 percent year-over-year (the highest in the study), but quarterly gains were less than 1 percent. The salary requirement in Tampa is $42,187.31 per year on a home price of $179,900.
Chicago has a median home price of $208,600, down .57 percent since last quarter, and the salary needed is $57,168.35.
Houston and Dallas have median home prices of $208,000 and $210,100, respectively. The salary required for Dallas residents is $51,826.29. Houston is just slightly lower with $51,392.04 per year.
The struggle to save 20 percent
Gumbinger says that the lower the down payment (assuming a fixed-price home), the higher the mortgage and salary requirements. But if you can’t save up the money in a high-rent market, you’re trapped in the rental situation. So what are his recommendations?
“This is where the word ‘compromise’ often comes in,” said Gumbinger. “If you’re in a rented apartment, you may be forced to move away from the center city in order to find something that’s reasonably affordable.”
Gumbinger also says first-time homebuyers should tap into available resources, including down payment assistance programs. Entry-level buyers can use these programs to evade high renting costs and benefit from low interest rates now, before they are expected to rise.
“Finding affordable housing is always a problem, and in some places, more severely,” he said.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel due to leveling home price appreciation in some markets.
“Even though inventory levels are tight, you might to see some softening of prices,” he said. “Some inventory is showing up that could help to temper price gains that could give you a better opportunity.”