WASHINGTON -- Slightly lower median home prices along with a small uptick in mortgage rates contributed to housing affordability holding steady in the fourth quarter, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released last month.
In all, 64.7 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $64,400. This is virtually the same as the 64.5 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the national median home price dipped from $211,000 in the third quarter to $205,000 in the fourth quarter while average mortgage interest rates rose from 4.45 percent to 4.54 percent in the same period.
"Housing affordability is stabilizing at a time when pent-up demand and ongoing job growth are helping housing markets across the nation to gradually strengthen," said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. "While this bodes well for housing in 2014, builders continue to face challenges, including tight credit for home buyers, inaccurate appraisals, and a shortage of workers and buildable lots."
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa was the nation's most affordable major housing market, as 89.4 percent of all new and existing homes sold in this year's fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the areas' median incomes of $53,900. Meanwhile, Kokomo, Ind., claimed the title of most affordable smaller market, with 96.3 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter being affordable to those earning the median income of $60,100.
Other major U.S. housing markets at the top of the affordability chart in the fourth quarter included Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.; and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; in descending order.
Smaller markets joining Kokomo at the top of the affordability chart included Springfield, Ohio; Monroe, Mich.; Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, N.J.; and Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.
For a fifth consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. held the lowest spot among major markets on the affordability chart. There, just 14.1 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $101,200.
Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart included Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J.; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; in descending order.
All of the five least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Santa Cruz-Watsonville, where 18.6 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area's median income of $73,800. Other small markets at the lowest end of the affordability scale included Salinas, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Napa, and Santa Rosa-Petaluma, respectively.