California’s higher prices offset low mortgage rates, reduce affordability

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CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS - Higher home prices were offsetting record-low interest rates and lowered housing affordability in California in the second quarter of 2012, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) reported.

The percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California fell to 51 percent in the second quarter of 2012, down from 56 percent in first-quarter 2012, but matched the 51 percent recorded in second quarter 2011, according to CAR’s Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI).

CAR’s HAI measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California. CAR also reports affordability indices for regions and select counties within the state. The Index is considered the most fundamental measure of housing well-being for home buyers in the state.

Home buyers needed to earn a minimum annual income of $62,390 to qualify for the purchase of a $316,230 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the second quarter of 2012.

The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, would be $1,560, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 3.92 percent. The effective composite interest rate in first-quarter 2012 was 4.16 percent and 4.85 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

The San Francisco Bay Area experienced the largest quarterly declines in housing affordability, resulting from double-digit price increases with little movement in the interest rate. However, when compared with the previous year, changes to the affordability index were minimal, thanks to a near-one percent drop in the effective composite interest rate.

At an index of 78 percent, San Bernardino County was the most affordable county of the state. At the other end, San Mateo County edged out San Francisco County (24 percent) to be the least affordable, with only 23 percent of households able to purchase the county’s median-priced home.

See CAR’s historical housing affordability data.

See first-time buyer housing affordability data.

Source, with regional break outs: “California Association of Realtors’ second quarter 2012 housing affordability report.”

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