With rates rising and home price growth starting to slow, I started to consider how much income is used towards housing in this current economic climate. Mortgage rates are trending upwards to near the highs of 2011 at 4.98 percent, home prices are still rising but at a slower pace, and the median income has been steadily rising although an even more modest pace than house prices. These factors go into how much of a person’s income goes towards housing expenditures and whether housing is a burden for potential homebuyers. This blog will highlight some of the factors and show states and regions where housing is less of a financial burden.
Home Price vs Median Family Incomes
Home prices since 2000 started to outpace incomes but started to turn towards the end of 2007, until home prices plummeted during the Great Recession. In 2008, incomes grew making it favorable for potential homeowners to buy a home. It took home prices about 4 years to recover, beginning in 2012. Around 2014 home price growth began to bloom and once again, prices started to outpace incomes. This pace has continued until recently, as home price growth has slowed making owning a home affordable. As of the second quarter of 2018, family incomes have increased by 52 percent since 2000, while housing prices have increased by 95 percent, or nearly doubled the level in 2000.
Payment to Income and Mortgage Rates
Let us look at the amount of money homeowners had to commit from their income to be able to afford a home. In 2000, when interest rates were 7.90 percent, homeowners had to spend about 19.6 percent of their income to be able to afford a home. In 2006 when rates were around 6.50 percent, homeowners had to spend 22 and up to 24 percent of their income on a home. In the wake of the Great Recession in 2009-2010, mortgage rates started to fall, so the share of income that went to paying a mortgage declined. In 2013 when rates were down to 3.47 percent, the mortgage payment on a median priced home was 11 percent of the median family income, putting less pressure on household incomes. Since that time rates have continued to decline, much to the benefit of potential homeowners. Anything above 30 percent is considered burdensome on households, but below that range would be typically affordable. On a regional level, the West requires a higher portion of your income, which has eclipsed the 35 percent mark. The Midwest, being the most affordable region, requires the least percentage of median family incomes. The Midwest started around 15 percent and, at times, dipped below 10 percent and is currently hovering back around 15 percent.
Payment to Income Ratio
A ratio between 2.5 and 4 is normal and healthy price to income ratio for the housing market. As of August 2018, the median price of existing homes sold was 3.5 percent of the median family income. The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) produced a map showing the US home price to income ratios. The ratios range from under two to over eight. As the map below illustrates, costal markets have much higher ratios, indicating significantly higher home prices compared with incomes. The West Coast region has affordability issues, with several areas posting ratios above eight, including San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Francisco metropolitan area. Small pockets in the Northeast reach above five, mostly clustered around New York City and Boston. The Miami/ South Florida Region also posts low affordability. In comparison, The Midwest region has ratios in the 2-3 range, in line with historical averages.
Jobs Generated vs GDP Growth Rate
The Gross domestic product (GDP) has hovered around 3 percent and has had to withstand the tech bubble, wars and several crises. In 2009, both jobs and GDP took a dive but rebounded the following year. GDP and jobs have grown solidly after the Great Recession. Unemployment has been below 6 percent ever since 2014, which is good for economic progress and potential homebuyers.
Even with rising rates and higher home prices, potential homebuyers have plenty of reason to join the market. Real Estate is still affordable in several states and regions. The job market is strong, GDP is at a healthy level and consumer confidence is high. New homes and existing inventory figures are now improving, although still modestly, but the increase in inventory is helping tame price growth.
Some homeowners opt to sell their residence without a real estate agent to get around paying a commission and make more of the profit. Forty-three percent of people (down from 48 percent last year) who sell without a real estate agent think that if they sell themselves, they’ll end up doing a little extra work in exchange for not paying a commission or closing fee. According to the research, however, what they actually get is a lot of time spent hustling to make the sale and a final selling price that is less than what the market can bear.
Do you have a lot of extra time to market your home and do all the work to meet and greet properly? Are you versed in local trends on the housing market and know the latest regulations for closing a sale? Do you have a list of potential buyers ready to view your home? Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold in 2017 were sold with the assistance of an experienced real estate professional, according to the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Most leave it to the professionals, yet there is still a small group of people who prefer to do it themselves. Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves, known as For-Sale-By-Owners (FSBO) home sales. That number has steadily declined since 2004 where only 82 percent of all home sales were agent-assisted and 14 percent of homes were listed FSBO. FSBO sales are currently at an all-time low since data collection began in 1981.
Picture This: are you a single female seller, early sixties, selling a single-family home or mobile in a suburban or rural area? If so, you might want to consider working with a real estate agent.
Let’s break it down further. Thirty-eight percent of all FSBOs—that’s only three percent of the total home sales in 2017—were homes sold to people where the buyer knew the seller selling to a friend, neighbor, or family member. However, 62 percent of FSBO home sales—five percent of total homes sold—were sold by the owner to someone they didn’t know. According to the 2017 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile report, sellers cited creating yard signs, listing their homes online on multiple websites, spreading the news through word of mouth, putting out classified ads, displaying on social media, hosting an open house, and registering with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. That’s a lot of work just on marketing and finding potential buyers.
The time it takes to sell a home on the market was a median of two weeks for FSBO sellers and three weeks for agent-assisted homes, but again many of the sales are arms-length transactions. Forty percent of all homes were sold in less than two weeks last year. Most FSBO homes sales were located rural areas (22 percent), urban area or central cities (19 percent), or small towns (16 percent). Sixty-six percent of FSBO sales were detached single-family homes, compared to 81 percent of all homes sold. Thirteen percent were mobile or manufactured homes, compared to three percent of all homes sold. FSBO sellers typically had lower incomes than those who worked with an agent. The median income of all FSBO sellers was $86,500 and for those who sold only through an agent was $102,900. Those who sell themselves have the perception that they have less money to pay for assistance when selling their home and opt to go it alone.
As it turns out, FSBO make less money on their home sales than buyers who work with a real estate agent. According to the report, the median selling price for all FSBO homes was $190,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number plunges to the median selling price of $160,300. For homes sold with the assistance of an agent, the median selling price was $250,000 ̶ that’s $60,000-90,000 more for the typical home sale. According to NAR’s 2017 Member Profile, seventy-five percent of all real estate agents get paid by a percentage commission split between two agents representing the buyer and seller.
Talk to an agent and find out what they suggest for the commission and then do the math yourself. The closing price for the agent-assisted seller is likely going to be way above an FSBO. In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall. Based on these closing numbers, why not save yourself time and make more money by working with a real estate agent that is excited to sell your home?
First, the top two projects that scored a perfect 10 on the Joy Score were adding a fire feature, such as a fire pit to the backyard, and installing an irrigation system, to make sure all those flowers and plants are watered and looking beautiful.
Next on the list for the highest Joy Scores were adding a new wood deck, a water feature, a statement landscape feature, and a new patio.
Fire Feature – Joy Score 10
A fire feature consists of installing a dry-stacked natural stone kit, gas burner, and flagstone patio. There’s no better way to roast marshmallows with the kids this summer.
Homeowners said they constructed a fire feature after they had recently moved in and wanted to customize to their personal tastes.
Irrigation System Installation – Joy Score 10
This project includes the installation of an irrigation system for the lawn. You can’t have plants and flowers blooming without the water.
Sixty-nine percent of consumers have a major sense of accomplishment when they think of their irrigation system.
New Wood Deck – Joy Score 9.8
The project consists of building a 14-foot by 18-foot wood deck out of cedar lumbar attached to the house. You can imagine sun bathing and cook outs, right?
Consumers have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home after building a new wood deck (74 percent).
Water Feature – Joy Score 9.8
These types of projects include constructing small ponds, water gardens, waterfalls, and fountains with running water. Perfect for a natural abode for Zen seekers away from the busy city.
Consumers added water features to improve livability (63 percent).
Statement Landscape Feature – Joy Score 9.7
A statement landscape enhancement includes unique features such as serenity gardens and created spaced for hobbies like yoga and bocce ball. They allow for play rather than work pursuits to balance one’s lifestyle.
Eighty-seven percent of homeowners said they have a greater desire to be in the home since adding a statement landscape enhancement.
New Patio – Joy Score 9.7
This entails installing a backyard 18-foot by 16-foot concrete paver patio. Carving out space in one’s home for enjoyable activities is never a bad idea!
Consumers built a new patio to improve livability (57 percent).
At the national level, housing affordability is down from last month and down from a year ago. Mortgage rates rose to 4.42 percent this March, up 8.2 percent compared to 4.28 percent a year ago.
Housing affordability declined from a year ago in March moving the index down 7.0 percent from 150.4 to 161.7. The median sales price for a single family home sold in March in the US was $252,111 up 5.9 percent from a year ago.
Nationally, mortgage rates were up 35 basis point from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points), while median family incomes rose 2.7 percent.
Regionally, the West recorded the biggest increase in price at 8.5 percent. The South had an increase of 6.0 percent while the Midwest had a gain of 5.1 percent. The Northeast had the smallest incline in price of 3.5 percent.
Regionally, all four regions saw a decline in affordability from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in affordability of 9.2 percent. The South had a decline of 7.3 percent followed by the Midwest with a drop of 5.7 percent. The Northeast had the smallest drop of 2.7 percent.
On a monthly basis, affordability is down from last month in all four regions. The West had a decline of 4.7 percent followed by the Northeast with a dip of 5.6 percent. The South had a drop of 5.9 percent followed by the Midwest, which had the biggest; dip in affordability of 8.6 percent.
Despite month-to-month changes, the most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 194.7. The least affordable region remained the West where the index was 105.6. For comparison, the index was 151.8 in the South, and 163.5 in the Northeast.
Mortgage applications are currently down 2.5 percent. Mortgage credit availability in April was flat. Rates are rising which will increase-housing costs. Home prices are up 5.9 percent while median family incomes are only growing 2.7 percent. Inventory gains will help ease the pressure on home prices.
What does housing affordability look like in your market? View the full data release here.
The Housing Affordability Index calculation assumes a 20 percent down payment and a 25 percent qualifying ratio (principal and interest payment to income). See further details on the methodology and assumptions behind the calculation here.
Home price appreciation is an important topic in today’s economy. Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS), we can analyze the gains and losses of property values over time. I estimated the median property values by state in 2017 using the FHFA index and the median property values from the (ACS). I then calculated the growth rate from 2005 -2017. 
The states with the highest estimated median property values in 2017 are Hawaii ($637,892), District of Columbia ($605,756), California ($522,431), Massachusetts ($396,992), and Colorado ($342,967).
The states with the lowest estimated median property values in 2017 are Alabama ($141,714), Oklahoma ($137,387), Arkansas ($129,902), West Virginia ($122,791) and Mississippi ($118,019).
On a regional level, the estimated price growth appears to be the strongest in the South, West, and Midwest. Price growth is weakest in the Northeast states. Overall, all regions are displaying growth in property values with only a few states showing no growth or loses. Below is a breakdown of the Census four regions by state.
In the South, which typically leads all regions in sales, Texas led the region with 63 percent estimated price growth from 2005 to 2017. Although Florida experienced strong price growth since 2012, home prices have only increased by 14 percent since 2005 when house prices were still generally at peak levels.
In the West, the least affordable region, Montana led all states with 71 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. Despite the strong price growth in California since 2012, prices have only increased by 9 percent since 2005. Nevada shows a negative 5 percent price change over this time.
In the Midwest where affordability is most favorable, North Dakota led all states with 111 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. The increase is likely due to the boom in shale oil production up until 2014 when oil prices started collapsing. Illinois, while having the smallest growth in the region had an estimated 7 percent price growth over this time.
In the Northeast where price growth is typically slow, Pennsylvania lead the region with a 40 percent price growth from 2005 to 2017. Rhode Island was the only state to have a decline of negative 4 percent price change over this time.
Click on the data visualization below to view the historical prices by state from 2005-2017.
 I used the FHFA expanded data set, not seasonally adjusted data.
Existing-home sales declined 2.3 percent in January from one month prior while new home sales dropped 7.8 percent. These headline figures are seasonally adjusted figures and are reported in the news. However, for everyday practitioners, simple raw counts of home sales are often more meaningful than the seasonally adjusted figures. The raw count determines income and helps better assess how busy the market has been.
Specifically, 313,000 existing-homes were sold in January while new home sales totaled 44,000. These raw counts represent a 27 percent decline for existing-home sales from one month prior while new home sales dropped 2 percent. What was the trend in recent years? Sales from December to January declined by 30 percent on average in the prior three years for existing-homes and rose by 10 percent for new homes. So this year, existing-homes outperformed compared to their recent norm while new home sale underperformed.
Why are seasonally adjusted figures reported in the news? To assess the overall trending direction of the economy, nearly all economic data – from GDP and employment to consumer price inflation and industrial production – are seasonally adjusted to account for regular events we can anticipate that have an effect on data around the same time each year. For example, if December raw retail sales rise by, say, 20 percent, we should not celebrate this higher figure if it is generally the case that December retail sales rise by 35 percent because of holiday gift buying activity. Similarly, we should not say that the labor market is crashing when the raw count on employment declines in September just as the summer vacation season ends. That is why economic figures are seasonally adjusted with special algorithms to account for the normal seasonal swings in figures and whether there were more business days (Monday to Friday) during the month. When seasonally adjusted data say an increase, then this is implying a truly strengthening condition.
What to expect about home sales in the upcoming months in terms of raw counts? Independent of headline seasonally adjusted figures, expect busier activity in the following two months. For example, in the past 3 years, February sales typically rose by 4 to 5 percent from January while March sales increased by 34 to 44 percent from February. For the new home sales market, the raw sales activity tends to increase in February and March. For example, in the past 3 years, February sales rose by 13 to 15 percent from January while sales in March increased by 2 to 20 percent from February.