Homes Still Affordable, But ‘Financial Comfort Zone’ Shrinking

An image of a calculator in the shape of a house

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Buyers who were unscathed financially by the pandemic have particularly benefited from mortgage rates under 3%. However, the surging demand for a limited supply of homes for sale has fueled higher home prices. Housing affordability has been waning as a result.

In October, monthly mortgage payments rose by 3.1% while the median family income rose by just 0.7%, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ housing affordability index.

Two line graphs, the top charting the housing affordability index and the other tracking median family income

Source: National Association of REALTORS®


Still, the average wage earner can afford the typical home across the U.S., according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions. “But the financial comfort zone continues shrinking as home prices keep soaring and mortgage rates tick upward,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM. “Historically low rates and rising wages are still big reasons why workers can meet or come very close to standard lending benchmarks in a majority of counties we analyze.”

Major homeownership expenses on a typical home are still affordable to average local wage earners in about half of the 575 counties analyzed, according to ATTOM Data researchers.

Median single-family home prices in the fourth quarter are up by at least 10% over the fourth quarter of 2020 in about 64% of the 575 counties tracked. Home price gains are outpacing wage growth in the majority of markets.

The counties where the smallest portion of average local wages is needed to afford a typical home are in the following areas:

  • Schuylkill County, Pa. (outside Allentown): 6.5% of annualized weekly wages needed to purchase a home
  • Macon County, Ill. (Decatur): 9.2%
  • Bibb County, Ga. (Macon): 9.5%
  • Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit): 10.6%
  • Peoria County, Ill.: 11.3%