Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Top 5 least affordable places to live.
Least affordable: New York City
Median home price: $425,000
Median income: $64,800
Affordability score: 19.7%
Home prices can be staggeringly high in the New York City metro area, but median income is not commensurately high; it's under $65,000. That combo makes this the country's least affordable major metro area.
Although, affordability has improved: The median home price has fallen from about $500,000 at the market peak, and more places are within reach now that mortgage rates are near historic lows.
After holding up better and longer than most housing markets, sales and prices around New York City have started to experience greater declines. The market there is highly influenced by what's happening on Wall Street; when financial markets sneeze, the real estate industry says "God bless you" with feeling.
Runner up: San Francisco
Median home price: $625,000
Median income: $96,800
Affordability score: 22.3%
Home prices in the Bay Area rose during the last three months of 2009, dropping the percentage of affordable homes sold to 22.3.
Still, prices are way off from the heady days of 2006, when a median-priced house sold for $769,000, according to the NAHB-Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. Now the median home is only $625,000.
It's a good thing the area's median income comes to a whopping $96,800, among the highest in the nation. Unemployment, however, is growing, and the 10.1% rate for the metro area puts it above the national average.
Third place: Honolulu
Median home price: $450,000
Median income: $79,300
Affordability score: 33.8%
The biggest city and metro area in the Aloha State has been an expensive place to live for decades; little developable land and the need to import building materials from far away helped inflate home values.
Median home prices have bounced around a lot, topping out at around $585,000 during the last three months of 2007 and dropping to $360,000 in the first quarter of 2009. They bounced back to $450,000 late in the year.
The economy is as heavily dependent on tourism as any American city, and that industry has suffered as more Americans think twice about taking expensive vacations. Hotel occupancy rates declined for 18 consecutive months before rising slightly in September.
People are still working, however, with the official unemployment rate at just 5.3% in December, down a full percentage point from three months earlier and well below the national average.
Foreclosures are also not a big problem with just a total of 3,985 properties with filings during the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac. That was 128th among 203 areas covered. Still, the total was more than twice was high as three months earlier.
If that trend continues, it could unleash a host of distressed properties on the market, which should bring down prices and raise affordability.
Fourth place: Santa Ana, Calif.
Median home price: $435,000
Median income: $86,100
Affordability score: 34.5%
Many of the booming Orange County economies were driven by the once-swelling housing bubble. Thousands of jobs were created in construction, the real estate industry, retail and mortgage lending. Once that bubble burst, a lot of these jobs rapidly disappeared.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts Santa Ana as part of the Los Angeles metro area for calculating unemployment rate and that, at 11.3% in December, was above the national average.
Home prices have dropped substantially from the high they hit back in mid-2006, when the median Santa Ana home sold for $630,000. But prices rose to $435,000 during the final three months of 2009, up from $411,000.
Fifth place: Los Angeles
Median home price: $320,000
Median income: $62,100
Affordability score: 36.8%
As the City of Angels filled in and up, with the population exploding to nearly 4 million in town and 13 million in the metro area, the city has mostly run out of land to build on. That has led to much higher development costs and home prices.
Still, L.A. values have fallen far from the bubble years, off nearly 40% since mid-2006. Affordability is improved as well, with 36.8% of homes sold falling in a range that median income earners could comfortably pay for.
With prices much lower and unemployment at 11.3%, many area homeowners are having a tough time staying out of foreclosure; there were filings on nearly 176,000 homes last year, the highest total for any metro area.