Typical home too expensive in most markets despite affordability surge

Average wages can’t afford a median priced home in three quarters of housing markets around the country, but slowing appreciation shifts that balance, according to Attom Data Solutions.

The data provider’s second quarter Home Affordability Report showed median home prices in 74% of counties weren’t affordable to consumers with average income. It represents a 1 percentage point decrease year-over-year and 3 percentage point rise from the previous quarter. However, 82% of housing markets showed improved affordability from the year prior, a massive spike from the 3% in the second quarter of 2018.

“Despite falling mortgage rates and rising wages, the cost of owning the typical home remains out of reach or a significant financial stretch for the nation’s average wage earners,” Todd Teta, chief product officer at Attom Data Solutions, said in a press release. “However, a closer look at the data reveals milder-than-usual increases for the spring, and none as severe as in previous years since the recession. Therefore, this can help indicate the market may be easing, following similar indicators from recent home-flipping and foreclosure data trends.”

About 61% of housing markets posted lower affordability compared to their historical averages, a drop from 74% a year ago.

Attom compiled average wage and median home price data from 480 counties. It based its report on the percentage of average wages needed to make monthly payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and a 3% down payment.

The highest shares of income needed to buy a median priced home came from California and New York in 2019’s second quarter. An average wage earner would need 116.8% of their income in Marin County, Calif., 113.4% in Kings County, N.Y., and 112.3% in Santa Cruz County, Calif. The lowest shares were Bibb County, Ga., with 12.9%, Wayne County, Mich., at 13.2% and Baltimore City, Md., at 13.6%

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