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Housing Affordability Suffers in Major Markets

money-deterioratingJust one day after the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported a slight decline in housing affordability throughout the third quarter, finance site Interest.com released its own grim findings on home affordability nationwide.

According to Interest.com's 2014 Home Affordability Study, middle-income families can afford a median-priced home in fewer than half of the country's 25 largest metros as house prices and mortgage rates outpace wage growth. While home price gains have slowed to a more reasonable rate of 4 percent nationally over the past year, that increase is still well ahead of the 2 percent pickup in incomes.

"The bottom line is that buying a decent home remains a difficult or unobtainable dream for Americans in many of the nation's largest cities," said Mike Sante, managing editor at Interest.com. "In those cities with the least affordable housing, the failure of paychecks to keep up with rapidly rising housing costs is reaching crisis proportions."

In some cities, Sante says it's not uncommon for families to spend more than half of their income just on housing costs.

In its 2014 survey, Interest.com found only a handful of markets where median household incomes exceed the cost of a median-priced home: Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, and Atlanta. Factoring in average property taxes, insurance costs, consumer debt, and mortgage rates, households earning the median income in those areas exceed the minimum required amount to purchase a median-priced home by at least 20 percent.

Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked the highest in this year's study. At $67,194, the median income in the Twin Cities metro outpaces the minimum required amount for a median-priced house by 23.2 percent.

On the other hand, San Francisco ranked as the least affordable city in Interest.com's survey, taking the bottom spot for a second straight year. The City by the Bay boasts a median home price of $769,600, the nation's highest. A family earning the median income of $355,703 could afford a home at less than half that price.

"I've even had San Franciscans tell me that they must devote 70 percent of what they make to keep a roof over their head—and they were renting. Owning is out of the question," Sante said.

Joining San Francisco as some of the nation's least affordable markets are San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.

Besides having higher-priced homes than a lot of other areas, Interest.com says all of these metros have one other commonality: They're hemmed in by oceans or mountains, leaving little room to develop new housing.

While those markets are likely to remain on the pricey side for the foreseeable future, analysts expect the ongoing slowdown in price growth will help level things out.

"You're not going to see the double-digit price growth we saw earlier," said Adam DeSanctis, economic issues media manager for the National Association of Realtors. "It's going to be at a more healthy pace, which will keep affordability at a preferred level, even with interest rates likely rising."

About Author: Tory Barringer

Tory Barringer began his journalism career in early 2011, working as a writer for the University of Texas at Arlington's student newspaper before joining the DS News team in 2012. In addition to contributing to DSNews.com, he is also the online editor for DS News' sister publication, MReport, which focuses on mortgage banking news.

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