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September 2018 Existing-Home Sales

  • NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this September was down 3.4 percent from last month, and dropped 4.1 percent from last year. September’s existing-home sales reached a 5.15 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, which was the lowest since November 2015 when the index reached 4.78 million.

  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $258,100 in September, up 4.2 percent from a year ago. This marks the 79th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

  • Regionally, all four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago, with the West and Northeast both having the biggest advance of 4.1 percent. The South had a gain of 3.0 percent. The Midwest had the smallest gain of 1.9 percent from September 2017.
  • September’s inventory figures are down from last month to 1.88 million homes for sale. Compared with September of 2017, there was a 1.1 percent increase in inventory levels. It will take 4.4 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 32 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market, down from 34 days a year ago.

  • From August 2018, three of the four regions experienced declines in sales. The South had the biggest decline of 5.4 percent followed by the West with a dip in sales of 3.6 percent. The Northeast had a dip of 2.9 percent. The Midwest region was flat showing no change in sales.
  • All four regions showed declines in sales from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in sales of 12.2 percent. The Northeast had a decline of 5.6 percent followed by the Midwest with a decline of 1.5 percent. The South had the smallest drop in sales of 0.5 percent. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 41.0 percent of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 13.2 percent.

  • In September, single-family and condominiums sales were both down 3.4 percent compared to last month. Single-family home sales fell 4.0 percent and condominium sales were down 5.0 compared to a year ago. Both single-family and condominiums had an increase in price with single-family up 4.6 percent at $260,500 and condominiums up 1.50 percent at $239,200 from September 2017.

How much of my income goes towards housing?

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 in comes 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.

House price 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 times 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.

August 2018 Housing Affordability Index

At the national level, housing affordability is up from last month but down from a year ago. Mortgage rates rose to 4.78 percent this August, up 14.1 percent compared to 4.19 percent a year ago.

  • Housing affordability declined from a year ago in August moving the index down 8.3 percent from 153.9 to 141.2. The median sales price for a single family home sold in August in the US was $267,300 up 4.9 percent from a year ago.
  • Nationally, mortgage rates were up 59 basis point from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points).

  • The payment as a percentage of income was down to 17.7 percent this August but up from 16.2 percent from a year ago. Regionally, the West has the highest payment at 24 percent of income. The South had the second highest payment at 17 percent followed by the Northeast at 16.5 percent. The Midwest had the lowest payment as a percentage of income at 14.2 percent.

  • Regionally, the West recorded the biggest increase in home prices at 5.2 percent. The Midwest had an increase of 4.2 percent while the South had a gain of 3.6 percent. The Northeast had the smallest growth in price of 0.1 percent.
  • Regionally, all four regions saw a decline in affordability from a year ago. The Midwest had the biggest drop in affordability of 7.8 percent. The West had a decline of 7.7 percent followed by the South that fell 7.0 percent. The Northeast had the smallest drop of 5.5 percent.
  • On a monthly basis, affordability is up from last month in three of the four regions. The Northeast had biggest gain of 6.2 percent. The South had an incline of 2.4 percent followed by the West with a slight increase of 0.1 percent. The Midwest had the only dip in affordability of 4.8 percent.
  • Despite month-to-month changes, the most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 175.7. The least affordable region remained the West where the index was 101.2. For comparison, the index was 146.7 in the South, and 151.2 in the Northeast.

  • Mortgage applications are currently down. Mortgage rates are still rising along with rents. Foot traffic is up which shows there is interest from future homebuyers. Job creation remains steady and new homes sales are continuing to incline. Home prices are up 4.9 percent outpacing median family incomes that are growing 3.0 percent.
  • 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.

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Lorraine Obar
Obar Real Estate LLC
425-327-0204
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