Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

December 2018 Housing Affordability Index

At the national level, housing affordability is up from last month but down from a year ago. Mortgage rates were unchanged from last month at 4.99 percent this December, and up 18.2 percent compared to 4.22 percent a year ago.

  • Housing affordability declined from a year ago in December moving the index down 8.4 percent from 161.2 to 147.6. The median sales price for a single family home sold in December in the US was $256,400 up 3.4 percent from a year ago.
  • Nationally, mortgage rates were up 77 basis point from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points).
  • The payment as a percentage of income was down from last month at 16.9 percent this December and up from 15.5 percent from a year ago. Regionally, the West has the highest payment at 23.4 percent of income. The South had the second highest payment at 16.7 percent followed by the Northeast at 16.5 percent. The Midwest had the lowest payment as a percentage of income at 13.1 percent.
  • Regionally, the Northeast recorded the biggest increase in home prices at 9.2 percent. The South had an increase of 2.7 percent while the West had a gain of 2.3 percent. The Midwest had a modest decline in price of 0.1 percent.
  • Regionally, all four regions saw a decline in affordability from a year ago. The Northeast had the biggest drop in affordability of 14.3 percent. The South had a decline of 8.2 percent followed by the Midwest that fell 5.8 percent. The West had the smallest drop of 5.6 percent.
  • On a monthly basis, affordability is up from last month in all of the four regions. The Midwest region had the biggest increase of 4.7 percent. The Northeast had a decline of 3.1 percent followed by the West with a dip of 2.3 percent. The South had the smallest gain in affordability of 0.3 percent.
  • Despite month-to-month changes, the most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 191.5. The least affordable region remained the West where the index was 106.9. For comparison, the index was 149.3 in the South, and 151.8 in the Northeast.
  • Mortgage applications are currently down while credit availability is up. Home prices are up 3.4 percent while median family incomes are growing 3.6 percent. Sales declined this year due to affordability issues, which has been more impactful than a healthy job market. Gains in affordability in all four regions are a good sign in the current market. Rate changes have an impact on the housing sector so small hikes can influence the effect on finances for potential homebuyers.
  • 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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