Housing affordability has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, with all of the least affordable markets in the state of California, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders.
The organization’s Housing Opportunity Index shows that a mere 42.2% of American families earning $90,000 per year were able to afford new and existing homes sold between the beginning of July and the end of September. Affordability is expected to weaken further as mortgage rates increase.
“The housing market and affordability conditions have continued to weaken throughout the year as rising mortgage rates, supply chain bottlenecks and a lack of skilled construction workers continue to push housing costs higher,” National Association of Home Builders Chairman Jerry Konter said in a statement. “Entry-level buyers are particularly hurt, as more of them are getting priced out of the market.”
The organization has not recorded a lower affordability reading since its analysts began tracking the metric consistently in 2012. The most recent affordability data marks the second consecutive quarterly record low.
Despite indications of falling home prices, cost pressures in the housing market have been mounting as the Federal Reserve increases the target federal funds rate at the fastest pace in decades. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate remained below 3% for much of the past two years, according to data from government-backed mortgage company Freddie Mac. The rate has surged from a reading of approximately 3% earlier this year to reach 7.1% as of Thursday, with most of the increases occurring after the central bank hiked interest rates.
“The best way to reduce housing costs is to boost supply,” National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz added. “Policymakers must prioritize fixing building material supply chains and easing excessive regulations to help bring down construction costs and enable home builders to increase housing production.”
All five of the least affordable large and small housing markets, defined respectively as metropolitan areas with more or less than 500,000 residents, are currently located in California. A mere 3.7% of homes sold to residents of Los Angeles in the third quarter were affordable to families earning the median income of $91,100. Similar phenomena nationwide have produced a spillover effect in the apartment rental market, while the most overwhelmed cities are located in the western portion of the country.
A separate report from the National Association of Realtors found that only 26% of home buyers were individuals searching for their first homes, even as the age of typical first-time buyers increased from 33 last year to 36 this year, constituting an all-time high. Meanwhile, the share of homes bought in small towns and rural areas increased to the highest levels ever recorded, while suburban and urban properties were markedly less popular from one year ago.
“Family support systems still prevailed as a motivating factor when moving and in neighborhood choice,” National Association of Realtors Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights Jessica Lautz said. “For others, housing affordability was a driving factor to seek homes in areas farther away. For many, remote work decisions were formalized in the last year, providing clarity for employees to permanently move to more distant areas.”