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House Affordability a Downside in 80% of US Counties

The national median home price spiked to a new high of $360,000, up 7.3% quarterly

Home affordability is out of the question on typical homes in 80% of the U.S.’s 589 counties, a new report from ATTOM concluded. “In more than a third of the markets analyzed, major expenses consumed at least 43% of average local wages, a benchmark considered seriously unaffordable,” the report stated.

That is based on the standard lending guideline that the amount of income needed to buy a median-priced single-family home should take no more than 28% of the average national wage. Instead, the report found the cost of home ownership took up 35.1% of the average national wage in 2Q2024 – the highest level since 2007.

“Major home ownership expenses on typical homes sold in the second quarter of 2024 required an annual income of $90,598 to be affordable, which was 25.2% more than the latest average national wage of $72,358,” the report noted. That was true in 58.2% of the national markets studied. Yet average wages exceeded the average in only 11.9% of the counties analyzed.

The findings are consistent with a trend dating to early 2022 of home ownership gobbling up historically larger portions of wages nationwide due to high mortgage rates now around 7% and rising home prices. The national median home price spiked to a new high of $360,000, up 7.3% quarterly from $335,000 and 4.7% annually. As a result, home ownership expenses climbed about 10% in the quarter.

Median home prices rose in 87.3% of counties in the period. On an annual basis, three of the worst hit counties with more than one million population were in California. King County, WA and Nassau County, NY also made the top five. Prices fell during the year in Honolulu, Tarrant County, TX, Oakland County, MI, Hennepin County, MN, and Fulton County, GA.

In just under half of counties, home prices rose faster than weekly annualized wages in 2Q2024. In the remaining half, it was the reverse. However, in 547 counties, 92.9%, home costs snatched up larger shares of wages.

“The worst affordability declines generally hit upscale markets concentrated in the West and Northeast with second-quarter median prices of at least $450,000. These counties were already among the most unaffordable in the U.S,” the report commented.

Of the 589 counties analyzed, 98.8% were less affordable in the 2Q2024 than their historic averages. The nationwide index fell to its lowest point in 17 years.

Counties with more than one million people where affordability suffered included Mecklenburg, NC, Fulton, GA, Wake, NC, Franklin, OH, and Wayne, MI. Only seven counties in the nation were more affordable. They included Macon, IL, San Francisco, Ontario, NY, Mercer, PA, and New York County.

The most populous of the 115 counties with affordable home costs were Harris, TX, Wayne, MI. Philadelphia, PA. Cuyahoga, OH and Allegheny, PA.

“The trends this year are particularly challenging for house hunters, more so than at any point since the housing market boom began in 2012,” commented ATTOM CEO Rob Barber.

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