Lower home prices, declining mortgage rates and solid income gains contributed to a rise in housing affordability in the first quarter of 2019, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). However, the HOI was little changed on a year-over-year basis, as home buyers continue to face ongoing challenges in terms of limited inventory, especially among starter homes for prospective first-time buyers.
In all, 61.4 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $75,500. This is up from the 56.6 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2018 that were affordable to median-income earners and relatively unchanged compared to a first quarter 2018 reading of 61.6.
The national median home price moved down from $262,500 in the fourth quarter of 2018 to $260,000 in the first quarter. At the same time, average mortgage rates fell by 25 basis points in the first quarter to 4.64 percent from 4.89 percent in the fourth quarter.
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., remained as the nation’s most affordable major housing market. There, 93.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $59,800. Meanwhile, Fairbanks, Alaska, was rated the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 94.7 percent of homes sold in the first quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $92,400.
San Francisco, for the sixth straight quarter, was the nation’s least affordable major market. There, just 6.9 percent of the homes sold in the first quarter of 2019 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $122,200.
All five least affordable small housing markets were also in the Golden State. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Salinas, where 12.6 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $74,100.
Housing affordability is going to remain a challenge throughout 2019, as builders continue to face rising construction and development costs.
Visit nahb.org/hoi for tables, historic data and details.