Mortgage rates have risen recently, and so have home prices. This has begun to cause an “affordability” squeeze as people look for new places to live, often outside big cities that have been plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic. One way economists look at how much money people can afford to pay for a house is the percentage of a person’s income in ratio to their monthly home payments. These costs include mortgage, taxes, and insurance.
Real estate research firm ATTOM Data Solutions recently issued its first-quarter 2021 U.S. Home Affordability Report. In it they based their figures “on a median-priced home, assuming an 80 percent down payment and a 28 percent maximum “front-end” debt-to-income ratio.” Income data, based on annualized weekly wages, came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. ATTOM looked at 552 counties that had enough data for them to make accurate calculations. Among the things they discovered is that median home prices rose 18% across the country to $278,000 in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago. Home prices rose at least 10% in two-third of the country.
Commenting on the trends, Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, remarked:
“The past year certainly has been an odd one for the U.S. housing market. Home prices surged at a remarkable pace even as the virus pandemic damaged the U.S. economy, which dropped historical affordability levels. But average workers untarnished by the pandemic were still able to afford the typical home because wages and rock-bottom interest rates worked to their favor in a big way.”
Nationwide, the cost of homes purchased in the quarter took up 23.7% of wages, the data on the 552 counties showed.
The county that required the greatest percentage of wages to buy a home was Kings County, which is the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where the figure was 75.7%. While ATTOM does not draw a relationship between high-income levels and a high percentage of wages needed to buy a home by county, there may be one. Other counties with figures close to Kings County’s are among the most wealthy in the country. These include Marin County, CA (outside San Francisco) (75.5 percent); Santa Cruz County, CA (69.9 percent); Monterey County, CA, (outside San Francisco) (68.1 percent) and Maui County, HI (65.9 percent)