Couple has money problems

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High home prices and mortgage rates are serving as a wake-up call to potential home buyers this spring that their budgets just aren’t going to go as far as they would have a year ago. In the first quarter of this year, 81% percent of consumers said they could afford less than half the homes for-sale in their markets. That marks the highest share since before the pandemic, the National Association of Home Builders reports.

Mortgage rates that have risen above 5% alone are pressing on more budgets. Since the beginning of the year, mortgage rates have jumped by 1.8 percentage points, which has added about $400 to the average monthly mortgage payment for a median-priced home, according to NAR data.

What’s more, with inflation at a 40-year high, the average consumer is spending $500 more a month on living expenses than a year ago.

House hunters would be smart to search for a home that is about $40,000 cheaper than they would have a year ago as a result of the rising costs, according to a new analysis by NAR.

Home prices continue to rise across the country so that’s not easy to do. NAR reported in its latest existing-home sales report that the median home price was $375,300 in March, up 15% compared to a year ago.

Housing affordability expectations have been dropping since the final quarter of 2020 across the country, according to NAHB’s data. The share of buyers who are only able to afford less than half the homes for sale in their markets increased in the Northeast (51% to 77%); Midwest (74% to 83%); South (68% to 79%); and West (61% to 78%).

Home searches are getting tougher, and consumers are realizing that. Only 17% of buyers say they expect their home search to get easier in the months ahead, the lowest level since 2018, according to NAHB. “Buyers’ worsening perceptions of housing availability reflect the record-levels of housing inventory available in the market,” Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research, writes for NAHB’s Eye on Housing blog.