Surging job losses in March stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a decline in housing affordability in the first quarter of 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).
In all, 61.3 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning an adjusted U.S. median income of $72,900. This is down from the 63.2 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2019 that were affordable to households earning the median income of $75,500.
HOI calculations use median family income estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, HUD’s estimates for 2020 were developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. To account for the pandemic’s effects, estimates were adjusted consistent with NAHB’s economic forecast for 2020. As a result, the 2020 median income estimates used in HOI calculations are 7.1 percent lower than the initial 2020 estimates produced by HUD.
The HOI shows that the national median home price held steady, edging up from $279,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $280,000 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage rates fell by 17 basis points in the first quarter to 3.61 percent from 3.78 percent in the fourth quarter.
Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazleton, Pa. was rated the nation’s most affordable major housing market, defined as a metro with a population of at least 500,000. There, 91 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $66,600. Meanwhile, Cumberland-Md.-W.Va. was rated the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 97.1 percent of homes sold in the first quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $57,500.
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif., once again assumed the mantle as the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 8.9 percent of the homes sold during the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $129,200.
All five least affordable small housing markets were also in the Golden State. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Salinas, where 15.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $75,800.
Visit nahb.org/hoi for tables, historic data and details.