Over half of homes for sale in major US markets are unaffordable for typical buyers

More than half of the homes for sale in several major markets in the United States are unaffordable for average buyers, according to a new report.

Buyers in places such as Southern California, Denver, Portland and Miami may have trouble finding a mortgage to buy a typical home, according to the analysis from property data firm Zillow.

Home buyers making with average incomes in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose are currently paying a larger share of their income toward a mortgage than during the pre-bubble years, it shows.

Home buyers in San Diego, Riverside, Portland, Sacramento and Miami are also paying more of their incomes to mortgages than they have historically but nationally, only a third of homes currently for sale are unaffordable by historical standards.

The report also suggests that those looking for affordable properties may increasingly be forced to search on the perimeter of the country's largest metro markets, as downtown properties become out of reach for buyers of typical means.

Zillow determined affordability by analyzing the current percentage of an area's median income needed to afford the monthly mortgage payment on a median priced home and comparing it to the share of income needed to afford a median priced home in the pre-bubble years between 1985 and 2000.
If the share of monthly income currently needed to afford the median priced home is greater than it was during the pre-bubble years, that home is considered unaffordable for typical buyers.

In Miami some 62.4% of homes come out as unaffordable by historical standards, followed by 57.2% in Los Angeles, 55.3% in San Diego, 55.2% in San Francisco, 52.8% in Denver, 50.9% in San Jose and 50.3% in Portland.

Nationwide, some 33.6% of homes are currently unaffordable, and in many metro areas, the majority of homes remain more affordable now than they have been historically for buyers making the area's median income. But as mortgage interest rates rise along with home values, affordability will worsen, and buyers will need to spend ever larger shares of their incomes to buy increasingly expensive homes.

Home buyers making the median income in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose should already expect to pay a larger share of their income today toward a mortgage than during the pre-bubble years.
Zillow expects mortgage rates on a 30 year, fixed-rate mortgage to reach or exceed 5% by the first quarter of 2015. Assuming rates at that level and another year of forecasted home value growth, home buyers in San Diego, Riverside in California, Portland, Sacramento and Miami will also soon be paying a larger share of their incomes to their mortgage than they were during the pre-bubble years.

‘As affordability worsens, we're already beginning to see more of the kinds of worrisome trends we saw en masse during the years leading up to the housing crash. These include a greater reliance on non-traditional home financing, smaller down payments and a greater pressure to move further away from urban job centres in order to find affordable housing options,’ said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries.

‘We're not in a bubble yet, but we're beginning to see the early signs of one in some areas,’ he added.