Contracts for new, single-family home sales increased 7.9% in January to a 764,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate according to estimates from the joint release of HUD and the Census Bureau. The increase came off an upwardly revised December estimate, which was revised from an initial reading of 694,000 to a new estimate of 708,000. Year-over-year, the January estimate is 18.6% higher than the same period in 2019. The three-month moving average for new home sales reached 721,000 in January, the strongest since September 2007. Sales were strong in January, supported by lower mortgage rates and historically low unemployment.
Regionally, new home sales were up 4.8% in the Northeast, 30.3% in Midwest, and 23.5% in the West, and down 4.4% in the South.
Compared to last month, inventory of new homes for sale increased 0.3% to 324,000 in January. Year-over-year, inventory of new homes for sale was 6.6% lower than a year ago (347,000). The current months’ supply fell to 5.1 in January, pointing to additional production gains.
Median new home sales price (price of a home in the middle of the distribution) rose 7.4% in January to $348,200 compared to December ($324,100) and 14.0% higher than a year ago ($305,400).
About 9% of newly built home sales are priced under $200,000 in January, compared to 11% last month and 9% one year ago. The number of new homes priced above $400,000 increased.
After nearly a decade of ever-escalating home prices and frenzied bidding wars, many buyers are wondering if finding an affordable piece of real estate has become about as likely as discovering a mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card in your stuff drawer, a double eagle coin on your dresser, or a unicorn in your driveway.
But wait! The list of markets where folks can score a home without shattering the bank is, in fact, growing. About 81% of housing markets have become more affordable since the beginning of the year, according to a realtor.com® report.
Reality check: This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s suddenly a cinch to become a homeowner in these areas, only that it’s getting a little better for tapped-out buyers. And in a hot market, every little bit helps.
So we decided to take a deep dive into where home affordability is increasing—and decreasing—the most. To figure this out, we looked at home prices as well as local household income in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the third quarter of the year.* (Metros include the main city and the surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller cities.)
So what’s driving the more affordable side of the equation?
“Mortgage rates are much lower than they were, and incomes have actually grown this year for most Americans,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com®’s senior economist. “Those two things combined have led to an improvement in affordability for home buyers.”
Nationally, affordability rose the most in predominantly midsized cities, many in the Midwest and South. These places tend to have strong economies and job markets and a larger supply of available homes for sale.
With the potential to make good money, more buyers in these areas are positioned to become homeowners or to trade up to nicer residences.
In most of these markets, millennials looking for homes where they can raise growing families are still competing with Generation Xers searching for move-up residences, and baby boomers wanting to find their forever abodes.
But in most cases, inventory’s not plunging by the double digits, which leads to insane price increases. (The one exception on our list was Jackson, MS, No. 8, where the number of homes for sale was down a steep 14.5% in October compared to a year ago.)
The inventory situation is trending in a whole different direction, however, in markets where homes are becoming less affordable.
Affordability primarily dropped in smaller cities with good job markets—places that are growing in popularity with cost-conscious buyers from other parts of the country. These cities tend to be far from the bigger, more expensive metros.
The influx of new residents is putting the squeeze on inventory, meaning that the number of homes for sale plummets and that prices spike.
“Before the recession, a lot of young professionals flocked to coastal cities looking for better-paying jobs and an urban lifestyle,” says Ratiu. “What we’re seeing now is a lot of the same professionals, approaching 40, with families and kids, are returning to their hometowns in the Midwest and South, looking for a better quality of life and a more affordable housing market.”
OK, so let’s take a deeper look—first at the places where buying a house is getting a bit easier.
Where has it become more affordable to buy a home?
Median home list price**
Percentage of homes available at the median income
Where should buyers on a more limited budget go? They might want to head to the heart of the Rust Belt, to Allentown, PA, a one-time industrial powerhouse that fell on hard times, inspired a catchy-but-depressing Billy Joel song, and is now staging a strong comeback. Affordability in the rebounding area improved the most compared to the rest of the nation.
Already-low real estate prices in the former steel town slipped almost 1% in October compared to the previous year, according to realtor.com data.
The median price was $224,950—38.7% less than the national median of $312,000. The low prices meant that middle-income buyers in Allentown could afford 59% of the properties in the metro.
“Lately more than ever, I’ve been working with people relocating to our area,” says Allentown real estate agent Faith Brenneisen of Keller Williams Real Estate.
About a third of her clients are professionals, either starting out their careers or beginning to contemplate retirement and coming from pricier New Jersey or the Washington, DC, area suburbs.
“They come here, and they can get similar jobs with less of a commute, a better quality of life, and a more distinguished home—for a much more affordable price tag.”
She noted Allentown’s convenient location, about 90 miles west of New York City and 60 miles north of Philadelphia. The area also boasts plenty of outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, and skiing. New businesses are moving into Allentown’s downtown area, helping to revitalize the city.
“You can live in a three-bedroom Cape Cod home in a cute West End neighborhood in Allentown for $200,000,” says Brenneisen. “And you can walk to restaurants and shopping and theater.”
In Des Moines, which placed just behind Allentown in affordability gains, median-income buyers could afford 56% of homes on the market. That’s because a current surge of available homes, thanks to heavy sales activity, resulted in an 8.1% annual drop in prices.
Add in the metro’s booming job market, and the result is that more folks can finally get into the housing market. (The financial firm Principal Financial Group is headquartered in Des Moines, and the companies Nationwide Insurance, UPS, and John Deere have operations there.)
With 5.7% more homes for sale year over year, they don’t have to bid up the prices to score the keys to a new abode.
“More people are at a point where they’re comfortable selling,” says Paul Walter, a Des Moines-based real estate agent at Re/Max Real Estate Group.
Walter works with a lot of millennial buyers moving out of their apartments and into single-family homes as they begin to start families.
“A lot of people have enough [home] equity, and they’re comfortable enough with the economy to move up [into nicer houses]—or, if they’re retirees, to downsize.”
There were a few surprises on our list. For example, it’s getting more affordable to buy a home in—wait for it—the nation’s most notoriously expensive market, San Francisco!
But take that with a shaker full of salt. The median price in that metro is still an astronomical $940,000—well out of reach of the vast majority of those who are not millionaires. If they’re earning the median household income for the Bay Area, buyers can only afford 18% of the listings available.
In San Francisco, lower mortgage rates have played a role in boosting the area’s affordability, says Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst in the Bay Area for the real estate brokerage Compass.
Plus, after years of sky-high annual price rises, the market has flattened, he says. Even in the United States’ tech and startup capital, home prices can’t go up forever.
“People bumped their heads up against the ceiling of what they could (or were willing to) pay,” Carlisle says,
Sorry to put a damper on things—now it’s time to zero in on places where it’s becoming harder to make that big down payment.
Where has it become less affordable to buy a home?
Median home list price**
Percentage of homes available at the median income
Just because it’s getting a little easier to buy a home in many parts of the country, it doesn’t mean the real estate market is finally hunky-dory for aspiring homeowners who aren’t raking in high six-figure salaries.
Only 18% of markets are truly affordable for the folks who live there, according to the report. Even in metros showing signs of improvement, home prices are still well out of reach for many regular folks.
Metros where it’s becoming even harder for locals to purchase a home are more often than not seeing big inventory decreases. That lack of supply leads to surging prices—which effectively puts the kibosh on any dreams of homeownership.
“Demand has been so strong, it’s pushing demand up,” says realtor.com’s Ratiu. “More people want to buy homes than there are homes for sale.”
Tulsa‘s affordability dropped the most in the nation, as its home inventory plummeted. It nose-dived roughly 26% in October compared to the previous year, according to realtor.com data. That’s thanks to a rush of opportunistic buyers entering the market when mortgage interest rates fell.
First-time buyers and investors gobbled up whatever they could find, leading prices to shoot up by nearly 15% in October compared to the previous year. Tulsa’s median list price was $246,700 in October, according to realtor.com data.
The scarcity of available homes leads to bidding wars. Tulsa real estate agent Suzanne Rentz is now getting up to nine or 10 offers within 72 hours on properties in the most desirable areas.
In the rest of the metros on this list, the number of homes for sale also fell by the double digits. While that’s great for sellers who may not have to make all those needed repairs, or knock down the price, it’s bad news for buyers as they compete against one another.
The Manhattan real estate market stumbled in the third quarter of 2019, new reports show, as prices plunged and fewer buyers were willing to purchase higher-priced properties in the wake of two recent tax increases.
The median sales price for properties fell 17 percent from the same quarter last year, to $999,950, according to new data from CORE. The average sales price dropped 12 percent, to $1.64 million.
Condo sales fell 8 percent, logging 946 transactions. Co-op sales, on the other hand, were up a modest 2 percent year over year.
“The third quarter of 2019 was undoubtedly the most challenging quarter in recent memory, especially for condo sales,” Garrett Derderian, managing director of market analysis at CORE, said in a statement. “Market prices have gone from what was once described as the kindest, gentlest correction to a near free fall. The last time conditions were described in such a way was in the height of the recession.”
Only 9.7 percent of sales were above $3 million, down 14.8 percent from last year. The last time sales above $3 million were that low was in 2012.
Consequently, nearly 30 percent of inventory on the market was priced above $3 million.
It’s worth noting that many buyers rushed to purchase properties before an increase in the city’s mansion tax and transfer tax took effect in July.
“Third quarter data reflects a more accurate snapshot of the current market – continued price correction,” Diane M. Ramirez, Chairman & CEO of Halstead, said in a statement.
Halstead’s own report released on Wednesday showed Manhattan apartment sales fell 16 percent in the third quarter – with sales above $5 million dropping nearly 50 percent.
Properties, meanwhile, spent an average of 192 days on the market – the highest quarterly total since the final quarter of 2012.
In July, New York City increased its mansion tax – a progressive tax that applies to home sales of more than $1 million – to a maximum of 3.9 percent, up from a flat-rate of 1 percent. The tax rates vary from 1.25 percent for $2 million sales, to 3.9 percent for sales of $25 million and higher. The city also increased a one-time charge on properties worth more than $2 million – known as the transfer tax. That fee, typically paid by a seller, varies from 0.4 percent for transactions under $3 million, to 0.65 percent for anything above $3 million.
As previously reported by FOX Business, more than 25 percent of new condos that have been built in New York City since 2013 remain unsold. In terms of units – of the 16,242 condos built since 2013, about 12,133 have sold. That means more than 4,100 have not.
Experts have said the trend could be indicative of a potential future recession.
Falling real estate prices come as concerns mount over the new tax law’s impact on high-tax states – particularly a $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. Some people have begun fleeing states like New York and New Jersey, headed for lower-tax areas like Florida and Texas.
New York was one of a handful of states dealt a blow in its bid to challenge the SALT cap this week, after a judge dismissed its lawsuit.
A second housing price index is showing an uptick in the rate of appreciation, possibly because interest rates declines have begun to mitigate affordability issues. CoreLogic says its Home Price Index for July was up 3.6 percent in July, the annual increase in June, was 3.4 percent. On a month over month basis the gain was 0.5 percent compared to an increase of 0.4 percent the previous month. Last week Black Knight noted that the rate of increase in its index had risen for the first time in 16 months.
CoreLogic Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said, “Sales of new and existing homes this July were up from a year ago, supported by low mortgage rates and rising family income. With the for-sale inventory remaining low in many markets, the pick-up in buying has nudged price growth up. If low interest rates and rising income continue, then we expect home-price growth will strengthen over the coming year.”
Annual price gains were experienced in all states but Connecticut and South Dakota. The highest increases were posted in Idaho (11.5 percent) Utah (8.4 percent) and Maine (7.7 percent).
The company’s forecast is for home prices to increase by 5.4 percent on a year over year basis from July to this year to the corresponding month in 2020. On a month-over-month basis, home prices are expected to increase by 0.4 percent from July 2019 to August 2019.
The graph below shows a comparison of the national year-over-year percent change for the CoreLogic HPI and CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index from 2000 to present month with forecasts one year into the future. Both the CoreLogic HPI Single Family Combined tier and the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index are posting positive, but moderating year-over-year percent changes, and forecasting gains for the next year.
“Although the rise in home prices has slowed over the past several months, we see a reacceleration over the next year to just over 5 percent on an annualized basis,” CEO President and CEO Frank Martell commented. “Lower rates are certainly making it more affordable to buy homes and millennial buyers are entering the market with increasing force. These positive demand drivers, which are occurring against a backdrop of persistent shortages in housing stock, are the major drivers for higher home prices, which will likely continue to rise for the foreseeable future.”
During the second quarter of 2019, CoreLogic and RTi Research conducted a survey of Millennial generation consumer-housing sentiment. They found that approximately 26 percent of that age group expressed an interest in buying a home in the next 12 months, but only 8 percent indicated a desire to sell their home within the same time frame. This means that new housing starts, or sellers from other age cohorts, will need to make up the necessary available supply to meet the demand. This desire to buy while housing stock is limited will continue to force prices up as buyers search for a home to purchase.
CoreLogic considers 37 percent of large metropolitan areas to have an overvalued housing stock as of July. Their analysis categorizes home prices in individual markets as undervalued, at value or overvalued by comparing home prices to their long-run, sustainable levels, which are supported by local market fundamentals such as disposable income. Twenty-three percent were undervalued, and 40 percent were at value. When the analysis is done on only the top 50 markets 40 percent were overvalued, 16 percent were undervalued, and 44 percent were at value.
In June, New York State rolled out a slate of proposals to protect renters. Among other changes, the new legislation closes several loopholes that have permitted owners to legally spike rents following renovations—a tactic that has been successfully used to deregulate more than 150,000 units over the past two decades. In essence, under the new legislation, owners will no longer be able to deregulate rent-regulated apartments at all. While the new legislation is certainly good news for many renters, for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who now already live in unregulated apartments, the current legislation doesn’t fix their current woes. But could a five-year rent freeze help? It may sound impossible, but this is precisely what Berlin—once an oasis of inexpensive rents—has just approved as a way to put the brakes on rising rental prices.
Berlin’s changing rental landscape and five-year price freeze
Just a decade ago, Berlin was still known around the world as a phenomenally cool city where one could rent a large apartment at a very reasonable rate. As Berlin’s economy has improved and its tourism industry has expanded, finding an affordable apartment in some of Berlin’s most desirable neighborhoods has become increasingly difficult.
By one estimate, since 2008, Berlin rents have doubled from 5.60 euros to 11.40 euros. Downtown neighborhoods such as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg have been especially hard hit. And prices aren’t just soaring on the rental side of the market. Buying a unit in Berlin is also increasingly out of reach. According to a recent report by the UK-based Frank-Knight, in 2017, Berlin bucked global trends, becoming the only major city in the world to report real estate price growth above 20 percent. However, in a city with more renters than any other European city, Berliners’ real concern remains the rising cost of rentals.
To be clear, Berliners are still not as hard up as people in New York, London, Paris, or Tokyo, but there are fears the city may be heading in this direction. On average, one-bedroom units in Berlin’s center are about 1,000 euros per month. Of course, this figure reflects area averages, and therefore, takes into account the high number of units still being rented out at pre-gentrification prices. As a result, if you’re new to Berlin’s housing market and looking for an apartment, you’ll likely pay much more than 1,000 euros monthly for a decent one-bedroom unit in a desirable neighborhood—as much as 1,500 to 2,000 euros or roughly $1,700 to $2,250 USD.
With rents rising, competition is also getting tough. A recent BBC report noted that over 100 prospective tenants often show up for apartment viewings. To stand out, some Berliners have reportedly even started to bribe prospective landlords who are willing to take them on as tenants. One couple, both professional photographers, reportedly offered prospective landlords a free photoshoot. Another house hunter posted a sign offering regular baking to any landlord willing to rent her a flat. While a free photoshoot or weekly fresh-based bread may not be enough to close a deal in New York City, such bribes are apparently growing increasingly common in Berlin’s rental market.
To put the kibosh on the rising rents, tough competition, and bribes, on June 18, the Berlin Senate voted in favor of a five-year rental freeze. Although planned to take effect on January 2020, the freeze will be applied retroactively from June 18. While many Berliners are in support, not everyone in Germany is happy about the proposal. Some critics worry that the freeze will prevent landlords from making necessary repairs to their buildings. Business analysts also fear the freeze may negatively impact Berlin’s economy. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel is skeptical. She’s suggested that building more affordable housing in the city may be a better solution.
Could a five-year rental freeze work in New York City?
Theoretically, a five-year freeze on both rent-regulated and market-rate units could be imposed—albeit not without major backlash from the real estate industry—but would it help control the city’s already inflated rental market?
NYU Furman Center’s historical data reveals that a lot can happen in five years, depending on a wide range of factors. The graph above features real median gross rental prices for MN 03 (the Lower East Side-Chinatown) compared to Manhattan and citywide rents from 2006 to 2017. As illustrated, had a five-year freeze on rents come into play in 2012, average rental prices would have been about $200 less on average by 2017. However, in the inflated Lower East Side-Chinatown market, a rental freeze in 2012 would have had virtually no impact on real median gross rental prices at all since the freeze would have happened during the area’s 2012 peak in prices.
Another risk of imposing a five-year rental freeze in New York City is what would happen next. In Berlin, no new lease can be 10 percent higher than the previous lease, but in New York, owners of unregulated units are free to raise rents as high as they like when an apartment turns over and even when an existing tenant renews a lease. The risk, then, is that if the city did impose a five-year freeze, owners would rebel and spike rents after the freeze, creating an even more untenable rental landscape.
All that glitters is gold when you’re talking about high-end real estate along the Atlantic Ocean. The Golden Isles are a chain of barrier islands sitting midway between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL.
If you’re unfamiliar with names like St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Brunswick, that’s because they’re hidden gems along Georgia’s oft-overlooked coastline.
The island chain offers just the right blend of notoriety and privacy and was tabbed last year as “The Secluded Island Hideaways for America’s Rich and Famous” by the Wall Street Journal. In addition to seclusion, the allure of these isles is intimately tied to golf. In fact, the golf tradition of the Golden Isles dates back at least a century.
With a backdrop of golf history and award-winning courses, it’s no surprise that pro golfers have snapped up homes in the Golden Isles.
Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III is one such linksman. The 21-time PGA Tour winner owns a pristine plantation-style home on St. Simons Island.
Love’s 5-acre spread is located in a private, serene neighborhood and includes a fully functioning farm. Known as Sinclair Farm, Love’s summery sanctuary is way, way above par.
It’s currently on the market for $4.48 million and eagerly awaits a buyer in search of a place with a golden reputation.
There’s only one divot—the golfer’s home has been up for sale for sixlong years. We’ll spare you the albatross jokes.
In 2013, Love’s property landed on the market at a price of $5.5 million. So what’s the holdup? Why aren’t buyers swooning over Love’s beautiful island compound?
St. Simons Island offers the best of island life. The plantation-style house is gorgeous. The property is enormous and lush. We’re talking endless summer, twinkling stars on clear nights with fireflies flitting around. The beach right around the corner.
To dig in to the reasons, we spoke with a couple of local agents.
An abundance of options
On Sea Island and St. Simons Island, there are over 50 listings priced between $1 million and $14 million, according to Rhonda NeSmith, an agent with Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners.
“People who can afford to buy in this price range have options,” she said. “This property is really nice and private, but a lot of people come to the area to be either in a golf community or on the water.”
Love’s secluded property is located in an area with only six other homes, and the street to reach the home is quite dark and winding, NeSmith said.
With an abundance of waterfront and golf course properties available, this lovely island spread might be … too remote?
The listing mentions views of a marsh in the distance. NeSmith said “distance” is a bit of an understatement: “There’s a 50-acre property in between this one and the marsh, so there’s not much to see in that regard.”
However, the views of the sky are unparalleled. NeSmith told us, “I can guarantee the view of the night sky from this property is an amazing sight.”
The home is also competing with luxury homes on the other Golden Isles, and many of those options are gated, private islands for residents only.
New construction in the area also plays a role. Even though Love’s home is only two decades old, many high-end buyers want a place with no previous owners.
“This home was built in 1999,” said Maria Jennings, real estate agent with DeLoach Sotheby’s International Realty. “There’s a fair amount of new construction in the area. This presents some competition for this kind of home.”
The vacation vibe
Jennings told us the Golden Isles are a popular destination for vacationers, retirees, and owners of second homes.
“The island tends to attract retirees that want to downsize,” Jennings said. “They’re looking for something that’s easy to maintain, and this property requires a lot of upkeep.”
Five acres aren’t going to tend to themselves. And with a fully functioning farm, upkeep is a daily commitment, which runs counter to the idea of having a low-key retreat.
Vacationers, she said, are looking for something similar: a place to stay that requires little maintenance and has enough space to spread out and relax, but not so much that keeping things clean, tidy, and in working order takes the fun out of the experience.
“The farm makes this property really unique, which is good, but it also narrows down the kind of buyer looking for this kind of home.”
You can’t hurry Love
For someone like Love, a native of the Golden Isles area and a professional athlete with presumably a sizable nest egg, selling the property quickly isn’t a top priority. He ranks among the top 20 money earners all-time in the world of professional golf, having pulled down nearly $45 million in career earnings.
“I tend to think he built this as his forever home, but obviously something changed,” says NeSmith. “Still, he probably doesn’t need to sell it for the money.”
The lack of urgency is reflected in the years the home has spent on the market and the relative lack of price cuts. The asking price was cut in 2015, 2017, and then again earlier this year to its present price.
“The house is worth its current asking price,” said NeSmith. “So that’s not the issue here. The property is just really unique for the area.”
So what kind of buyer will fall in love with an island farm?
“It’s probably going to be someone middle-aged that’s relocating that wants to be close to the water but still have the farm feel,” said Jennings. “That’s a pretty unique buyer.” If you fit the very specific bill, Love is still waiting for you to take a swing.
In February, annual home price gains slowed across the country, according to the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index from S&P Down Jones Indices and CoreLogic.
The report’s results showed that February 2019 saw an annual increase of 4% for home prices nationwide, falling from the previous month’s report.
The graph below highlights the average home prices within the 10-City and 20-City Composites.
(Click to enlarge)
Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index decreased 0.2% month over month in February. The 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite both posted a 0.2% month over month decrease.
After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a month-over-month gain of 0.3% in February. Additionally, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite posted also posted a 0.2% month-over-month increase.
The 10-City and 20-City composites reported a 2.6% and 3.1% year-over-year increase for the month, respectively. Before seasonal adjustment, 14 of 20 cities reported increases, while 17 of 20 cities reported increases after the seasonal adjustment.
S&P Dow Jones Indices Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee David Blitzer said the pace of increases for home prices continues to slow.
“Homes began their climb in 2012 and accelerated until late 2013 when annual increases reached double digits,” Blitzer said. “Subsequently, increases slowed until now when the National Index is up 4% in the last 12 months.”
And although sales of existing single-family homes have recovered since 2010 and reached their peak one year ago in February 2018, home sales have drifted down over the last year except for a one-month pop in February 2019, according to Blitzer.
“Sales of new homes, housing starts, and residential investment had similar weak trajectories over the last year,” Blitzer said. “Mortgage rates are down one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point since late 2018.”
Additionally, Blitzer notes that regional housing trends are changing, especially as previously thriving housing markets continue to lose appreciation.
According to the report, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tampa reported the highest year-over-year gains among all of the 20 cities.
In February, Las Vegas led with a 9.7% year-over-year price increase, followed by Phoenix with a 6.7% increase and Tampa with a 5.4% increase. Notably, only one of the 20 cities reported larger price increases in the year ending February 2019 versus the year ending January 2019.
“The largest year-over-year price increase is 9.7% in Las Vegas; last year, the largest gain was 12.7% in Seattle. Regional patterns are shifting. The three California cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have the three slowest price increases over the last year. Chicago, New York and Cleveland saw only slightly larger prices increases than California,” Blitzer said. “Prices generally rose faster in inland cities than on either the coasts or the Great Lakes. Aside from Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tampa, which saw the fastest gains, Atlanta, Denver, and Minneapolis all saw prices rise more than 4% — twice the rate of inflation.”
By Na Zhao, Ph.DNAHB Economics and Housing Policy GroupReport available to the public as a courtesy of HousingEconomics.com
This article announces NAHB’s “priced out estimates” for 2019, showing how higher home prices and interest rates affect housing affordability. The 2019 U.S. estimates indicate that a $1,000 increase in the median new home price would price 127,560 U.S. households out of the market. In other words, 127,560 households would qualify for the new home mortgage before the change, but not afterwards. Similarly, 25 basis points added to the current mortgage rate would price out around 1 million households. The article also includes priced out estimates for individual states and more than 300 metropolitan areas.
The Priced Out Methodology and Data
The NAHB Priced Out model uses the ability to qualify a mortgage to measure housing affordability, because most home buyers finance their new home purchase with conventional loans,  and because convenient underwriting standards for these loans exist. The standard NAHB adopts for its priced-out estimates is that the sum of the mortgage payment (including the principal amount, loan interest, property tax, homeowners’ property and private mortgage insurance premiums (PITI), is no more than 28 percent of monthly gross household income.
As a result the number of households that qualify for mortgages for a certain priced home depends on the household income distribution in an area and the mortgage interest rate at that time. The most recent detailed household income distributions for all states and metro areas are from the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS). NAHB adjusts the income distributions to reflect the income and population changes that may happen from 2017 to 2019. The income distribution is adjusted for inflation using the 2018 median family income published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for all states and metro areas, and then extrapolated it into 2019. The number of households in 2019 is projected by the growth rate of households from 2016 to 2017.
The assumptions of the priced out calculation include a 10% s down payment and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, at an interest rate of 4.85%. For a loan with this down payment, private mortgage insurance is required by lenders and also included as part of PITI. The typical private mortgage insurance annual premium is 73 basis points, based on the standard assumption of national median credit score of 738 and 10% down payment and 30-year fixed mortgage rate. Effective local property tax rates are calculated using data from the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) summary files. Homeowner’s insurance rates are constructed from the 2016 ACS Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). According to Brisbane property valuers, for the U.S. as a whole, the property tax is $12 per $1,000 of property value and the homeowner insurance is $4 per $1,000 property value.
Under these assumptions, 32.7 million of the 122.5 million U.S. households could afford to buy a new median priced home at $355,183 in 2019. A $1,000 home price increase thus would price 127,560 households out of the market for this home. These are the households that can qualify for a mortgage before a $1,000 increase but not afterwards, as shown in Table 1 below.
State and Local Estimates
The number of priced out households varies across both states and metropolitan areas, largely affected by the sizes of local population and the affordability of new homes. The 2019 priced-out estimates for all states and the District of Columbia are shown in Table 2 (available in the Additional Resources box), which presents the projected 2019 median new home price and the amount of income needed to qualify the mortgage, and the number of households could be priced out if price goes up by $1,000. Among all the states, Texas registered the largest number of households priced out of the market by a $1,000 increase in the median-priced home in the state (11,152), followed by California (9,897), and Ohio (7,341).
Table 3, which is available in the Additional Resources box, shows the 2019 priced-out estimates for 382 metropolitan statistical areas. The metropolitan area with the largest priced out effect, in terms of absolute numbers, is Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI, where 4,499 households are squeezed out of the market for a new median-priced home if price increases by $1,000. This is largely because Chicago is a populous metropolitan area with a large number of households; and, compared to the largest metropolitan areas on the East and West costs, the median priced home is more affordable to begin with. Around 27% of households there are capable of buying new median-priced homes. For similar reasons, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX metro area, where nearly 33% of households can afford median-priced new homes.to begin with, registered the second largest number of priced out households (3,546), where nearly 33% of households can afford median-priced new homes. In New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, 3,531 households are squeezed out of the housing market for a new median-priced home if price increases by $1,000. Compared to Chicago or Houston, the median-priced new home is affordable to a smaller share of the households in New York, but New York is the largest metro area by population size with over 7 million households.
The NAHB 2019 priced-out estimates also present how interest rates affect the number of households would be priced out of the new home market. If the mortgage interest rate goes up, the monthly mortgage payments will increase as well and therefore higher household income thresholds to qualify a mortgage loan. Table 4 shows the number of households priced out of the market for a new median priced home at $355,183 by each 25 basis-point increase in interest rate from 2.85% to 10.85%. When interest rates goes up from 2.85% to 3.10%, around 1.26 million households could no longer afford buying median-priced new homes. An increase from 4.85% to 5.10% could price approximately one million households out of the market. However, about 423,000 households would be squeezed out of the market if interest rate goes up to 10.85% from 10.6%. This diminishing effects happen because only a few households at the thinner end of household income distribution will be affected. On the contrary, when interest rates are relatively low, 25 basis-point increase would affect a larger number of households at the thicker part of income distribution.
FootnotesAccording to the 2017 American Housing Survey (funded by HUD and conducted by the Census Bureau), 74 percent of the home buyers who moved into their homes in 2016 or 2017 had a regular primary mortgage on the home.Private mortgage insurance premium (PMI) is obtained from the PMI Cost Calculator( https://www.hsh.com/calc-pmionly.html)Median credit score information is shown in the article “Four ways today’s high home prices affect the larger economy” October 2018 Urban Institute https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/four-ways-todays-high-home-prices-affect-larger-economyProducing metro level estimates from the ACS PUMS involves aggregating Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) level data according to the latest definitions of metropolitan areas. Due to complexity of these procedures and since metro level insurance rates tend to remain stable over time, NAHB revises these estimates only periodically.
Contracts for new single-family home sales fell more than expected in April, declining 11.4% to a 569,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate according to estimates from the joint data release of HUD and the Census Bureau. The decline occurred after solid, positive revisions for new home sales for the first three months of the year.
All told, total new home sales for 2017 stand at 210,000, a 11.3% gain over the 2016 comparable total of 189,000.
NAHB expects new home sales to continue to progress along the established, modest growth trend due to ongonig job growth, improving household formations, continuing favorable housing affordability conditions, and tight existing home inventory.
Inventory growth continued in April. After hovering near 240,000 for most of 2016, inventory has now risen to 268,000. The current months’ supply number stands at a healthy 5.7. Given tight existing inventory, more new homes are required to meet housing demand.
The most recent data also indicate a growing share of homes not-started in builder inventory. For example, on a year-over-year basis, homes under construction in inventory have increased by a little more than 6% over the last year. Completed, ready-to-occupy homes (there are only 59,000) are up 2% since April of last year. In contrast, homes not-started listed in inventory have increased 42%, from 36,000 in April of 2016 to 52,000 last month.
Pricing data in the April report find that the median sales price of new homes sold in April was $309,200, while the average price was $368,300. These levels are below the 2016 annual totals but remain higher than the 2015 data.
Regionally, all areas saw monthly declines in sales in April. Sales were down 26% in the West, 13% in the Midwest, 8% in the Northeast and 4% in the South. As with the national headline number, the monthly numbers obscure growth for 2017. On a year-to-date basis, new home sales are up 26% in the Midwest, 15% in the Northeast, 10% in the South and 7% in the West compared to April of 2016.
After increasing and leveling off in recent years, new single-family home size continued along a general trend of decreasing size during the start of 2017. This change marks a reversal of the trend that had been in place as builders focused on the higher end of the market during the recovery. As the entry-level market expands, including growth for townhouses, typical new home size is expected to decline.
On a less volatile one-year moving average, the recent trend of declines in new home size can be see on the graph above, although current readings remain elevated. Since cycle lows (and on a one-year moving average basis), the average size of new single-family homes is 10% higher at 2,624 square feet, while the median size is 14% higher at 2,402 square feet.