When’s The Best Time To Buy A Home When Prices For Homes Keep Rising?

Despite falling mortgage rates, homeownership costs increased through this year’s second quarter.

For the first time since 2008, fewer than 63% of U.S. homes were affordable to households earning the national median income, assuming a 30-year mortgage rate and modest downpayment.

With home prices expected to rise into 2015, is now the right time to buy a home for maximum affordability? A lot will depend on low mortgage rates and the future of low- and no-downpayment mortgages.


The National Association of Home Builders released its Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) for this year’s second quarter and it shows that homes are, generally, less affordable today as compared to three months ago.

The Housing Opportunity Index is a quarterly gauge of home affordability which tracks the typical U.S. household’s ability to purchase the typical U.S. home. Data is collected across 225 metropolitan areas.

To determine whether a home is “affordable”, the NAHB first gathers the median home sale price for an area, then identifies the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate during the period, and, finally, projects what a typical housing payment would be.

An”affordable” home is one for which the front-end debt-to-income ratio is 28% or less of the area’s median household monthly income. The front-end debt-to-income ratio is calculated as (total housing payment) divided by (total monthly income).

The index also assumes conventional financing via Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, plus a ten percent home downpayment.

Last quarter, 62.6 percent of U.S. homes were affordable for households earning the national median income of $63,900. The reading marks a 2.9 percentage point decrease from the quarter prior and is the lowest affordability ranking since the third quarter of 2008.

Not coincidentally, Q3 2008 was the quarter during which the U.S. economy began its slide into recession. During September of that year, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken into conservatorship ; Lehman Brothers failed; and Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America.

Affordability has been steadily lower as the housing market has recovered :

  • Q2 2012 : 73.8 percent
  • Q2 2013 : 69.3 percent
  • Q2 2014 : 62.6 percent

Since two years ago, the median U.S. home sales price climbed 16% to $214,000, average mortgage rates are up 39 basis points (0.39%); and, the median U.S. household is mostly unchanged.

Going forward, home values are expected to keep rising and household income is expected to remain flat. The determining factor for future home affordability, then, is U.S. mortgage rates. Thankfully, rates have been on decline.

Since the start of this year, 30-year mortgage rates have dropped closed to one-half percentage point and 15-year mortgage rates have dropped by about the same. The cost of carrying a loan is low relative to where it was at the New Year.

Many lenders now quote rates in the 3s. As mortgage rates drop, home affordability can increase. Rates may continue dropping through the fall months, and into the winter season.




Realtor with Greg Garrett Realty, actively licensed in the state of Virginia

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