Slightly lower interest rates and home prices contributed to a slight increase in nationwide housing affordability in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.
In all, 62.8% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the median income of $63,900. This is up from the 61.8% of homes sold in the third quarter.
The national median home price declined from $220,800 in the third quarter to $215,000 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage interest rates decreased from 4.35% to 4.29%.
In Greater Greenville, the index rose from 78% during the third quarter of 2014 to 80.4% in the fourth quarter. Like the nation, house prices dropped slightly to $161,000 from $163,000, while income remained at $58,200. As a result, Greater Greenville’s national rank as most affordable among all housing markets improved to 64th nationally, and 13th in the Southeast.
Meanwhile, Charleston’s affordability fell slightly as housing prices continued to rise in that market. But Charlotte’s affordability improved, also the result of falling home prices. Atlanta’s affordability also improved.
“This upturn in affordability is a positive development, and in line with what we are hearing from builders in the field: More prospective buyers are starting to move forward in the marketplace,” said Tom Woods, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
“Affordable home prices, historically low mortgage rates and an improving job market will release pent-up demand and help keep the housing market moving forward in the year ahead,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
Syracuse, N.Y. claimed the title of the nation’s most affordable major housing market, as 92.8% of all homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $67,700.
Also ranking among the most affordable major housing markets: Akron and Dayton, Ohio and Harrisburg-Carlisle and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa, with the latter two tied for fourth place.
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. topped the affordability chart among smaller markets: 96.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $54,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index include Kokomo, Ind.; Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Salisbury, Md.
For a ninth consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 11.1% of homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $100,400.
Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara — all in California — and New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.
All five least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom was Napa, where 12% of homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $70,300. Other markets on the list included Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Rosa-Petaluma, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles; in descending order.