California Home Affordability Upticks in Q3, Yet Slips Annually

California Home Affordability Upticks in Q3, Yet Slips Annually

Residential News » Los Angeles Edition | By Miho Favela | February 12, 2016 9:00 AM ET

According to the California Association of Realtors, lower interest rates and level home prices combined to perk up California housing affordability in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to the previous quarter. Affordability, however, was down when compared to the previous year.
The percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in fourth-quarter 2015 ticked up to 30 percent from the 29 percent recorded in the third quarter of 2015 but was down from 31 percent in fourth-quarter 2014, according to C.A.R.'s Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI).  This is the 11th consecutive quarter that the index has been below 40 percent and is near the mid-2008 low level of 29 percent.  California's housing affordability index hit a peak of 56 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
C.A.R.'s HAI measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California.  C.A.R. also reports affordability indices for regions and select counties within the state.  The Index is considered the most fundamental measure of housing well-being for homebuyers in the state.
Home buyers needed to earn a minimum annual income of $96,640 to qualify for the purchase of a $483,050 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the fourth quarter of 2015.  The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $2,420, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.07 percent.  The effective composite interest rate in third-quarter 2015 was 4.16 percent and 4.20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. 
The median home price was $488,540 in third-quarter 2015, and an annual income of $98,580 was needed to purchase a home at that price.
Unchanged from the previous quarter and year, 39 percent of California households earned the minimum income to qualify for the purchase of a condominium or townhome in the last quarter of 2015. An annual income of $78,720 was required to make monthly payments of $1,970.
Key points from the fourth-quarter 2015 Housing Affordability report include:

  • Compared to affordability in third-quarter 2015, 16 counties saw an improvement in housing affordability, five experienced declines, and six were unchanged.
  • Regionally, affordability improved slightly across the state with affordability gains mostly in the higher-priced areas, while less expensive regions experienced minimal effects due to level home prices.
  • Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin counties saw the greatest quarter-to-quarter improvement in housing affordability due to flat home prices and lower interest rates.
  • During the fourth quarter of 2015, the five most affordable counties in California were Kings (61 percent), Merced (55 percent), San Bernardino (53 percent), Tulare (54 percent), and Fresno (49 percent).
  • San Francisco (11 percent), San Mateo (14 percent), and Marin (17 percent), counties were the least affordable areas of the state.  

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