The California Association of Realtors recently released its Housing Affordability Index (HAI) for the 1st quarter of 2018, which measures the percentage of households that can afford to buy the median priced single family dwelling (house).
In this analysis, affordability is affected by 3 major factors: county median house price, mortgage interest rates, and the distribution of household incomes within the county. (Housing Affordability Index Methodology). The HAI uses house prices exclusively and if condos were included in the calculation, median home prices would decline, affordability would increase and income requirements and PITI costs would be reduced as well. (SF now has more condo sales than house sales, but that is not the case in other Bay Area counties.)
If the HAI Index incorporates changes to the federal tax code (effective 1/1/18) limiting the deductibility of interest expenses and property taxes, it will presumably have a negative effect on affordability percentages in 2018. However, as of Q1 2018, the CAR Index has not yet been able to adjust their calculations for these changes.By definition, half the homes sold in any given county were at prices below the median sales price, i.e. there were numerous homes that were more affordable than the median prices used in this analysis. However, any way one slices it, the Bay Area has one of the most expensive – if not the most expensive – and least affordable housing markets in the country. That impacts our society and economy in a number of important ways. Since the real significance of many of these charts is in the longer term trends, we’ve only updated some of the charts below in this report with Q1 2018 data: Q1 median home prices, income required to purchase a median priced house, PITI costs, and county affordability percentages. Link to our Survey of Bay Area County Markets, Trends & Demographics Positive & Negative Factors in SF Bay Area Real Estate Link to our Main Reports Page
Affordability Percentage by Bay Area CountyNote that extremely low affordability readings converged across Bay Area counties at the top of the bubble in 2006-2007. So far, there has not been a similar convergence in our current market, though affordability is generally dropping as prices increase. Having dropped approximately 40% from 2007 to mid-2016, extremely low interest rates have subsidized increasing home prices to a large degree in recent years – but they’ve begun to rise significantly in 2018. San Francisco is still above its all-time affordability low of 8%, last reached in Q3 2007 (even though its median house price has increased more than 50% during that period). Other Bay Area counties (except for Silicon Valley) have appreciably higher affordability percentages, for the time being. Generally speaking, as one moves farther away from the heart of the high-tech boom, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, affordability increases.
Minimum Qualifying Income to Buy Median Priced House Assumes 20% down payment and including principal, interest, property tax and insurance costs.
Bay Area Median House Prices
San Francisco-Only Median House Price Appreciation by Quarter since 2012Before the high-tech boom, Marin, a famously affluent county for long time, had the highest median house price. But the high-tech boom accelerated median home prices in San Francisco and San Mateo faster and higher. Additional chart: Median condo sales prices by county San Francisco has a much larger and more expensive condo market than other local counties, and is the only county with a very substantial luxury condo market – one that is growing significantly with recent new-condo project construction.
Mortgage Interest Rates since 1981
Short-Term Changes in Mortgage Interest RatesInterest rates play an enormous role in affordability via ongoing monthly housing costs, and interest rates, after their recent post-election jump are about 35% lower than in 2007. To a large degree this has subsidized the increase in home prices for many home buyers. It is famously difficult to predict interest rate movements, though there is general agreement. Any substantial increase in interest rates would severely negatively impact already low housing affordability rates.
Bay Area Median House Prices since 1990If one looks at charts graphing affordability percentages, home prices, market rents, hiring/employment trends and to some degree even stock market trends, one sees how often major economic indicators move up or down in parallel.
Monthly Rental Housing CostsThe recent economic boom has added approximately 600,000 new jobs in the Bay Area over the past 6 years, with about 100,000 in San Francisco alone – with a corresponding surge in county populations. Most new arrivals look to rent before considering the possibility of buying. The affordability challenges for renters (unless ameliorated by rent control or subsidized rates) has probably been even greater than that for buyers, since renters don’t benefit from any significant tax benefits, from the extremely low, long-term interest rates, or by home-price appreciation trends increasing the value of their homes (and their net worth). In fact, housing-price appreciation usually only increases rents without any corresponding financial advantage to the tenant. Rents in the city have been plateauing in recent quarters and may even be beginning to decline as the hiring frenzy has slowed and an influx of new apartment buildings have come onto the market – but they are still the highest in the country. Bay Area Rent Report
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