Home affordability falls to lowest levels in 10 years: report

Across the US, home prices are rising faster than wages in many cities

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

Home affordability has reached its lowest levels in a decade, and some experts are calling it the latest and among the most significant indicators of a cooling market.

Median U.S. home prices dropped in the fourth quarter to their lowest levels of affordability since the third quarter of 2008, according a report released Thursday by real estate data firm Attom Data Solutions.

Home prices are rising faster than wages in many U.S. cities, according to Attom and industry experts. Home affordability is considered a key metric in the overall health of the housing market.

Many large U.S. metro areas showed a significant decline in their affordability index levels from the previous year.

Los Angeles dropped 12 percent, one of the steepest declines. In New York, the affordability index level fell 8 percent, while in Miami-Dade County, it fell to 10 percent. Chicago’s Cook County also fell 10 percent.

Nationwide, the median home sales price from October through December was $241,250, up 9 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, the average weekly wage was up 3 percent from a year ago.

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Attom’s “affordability index” measures the percentage of income needed to buy a median-priced home compared to historic averages. An index rating of more than 100 indicates median home prices across the country are more affordable than their historic average.

In the fourth quarter, the home affordability index stands at 91, down from 106 at the same time last year.

Homebuilders are struggling with rising construction and supply costs, which are squeezing margins. These costs have made building a home more expensive.

Mortgage rates are also rising which experts say is also leading some potential homebuyers to get pushed out of the market.

In recent months, signs abound suggesting the years-long housing boom is coming to an end.

In October, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that new home sales dropped 8.9 percent compared to September, marking an almost two-and-a-half-year low. Home flipping also dropped to its lowest levels in more than three years, according to a third quarter report, also from Attom. The firm likened it to a “canary in the coal mine.”