Some homeowners may rejoice at rising home prices. But for those who want to move up or buy their first home, double-digit price increases made it more difficult during the third quarter of 2020, according to a recent report by ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data analysis firm.

The 2020 U.S. Home Affordability Report showed that the median home prices of single-family homes, townhouses and condos in the third quarter of 2020 were less affordable than historical averages in 63 percent of counties in the United States.

Overall, houses were unaffordable to the average wage earner in 61 percent of the counties in the report. In this report, unaffordable refers to a median housing payment that is more than 28 percent of the average wages in the county. The main culprit: spikes in single-family home prices that outweighed the benefit of lower mortgage rates.

According to the report, median home prices were up by at least 10 percent in 52 percent of the 487 counties in the report when comparing the third quarter of 2020 with the third quarter of 2019.

The report determines affordability based on a comparison of annualized average weekly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the amount of income needed to make monthly housing payments, including the mortgage, property taxes and insurance on a median-priced home in each county. The analysts assumed a 20 percent down payment and a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 28 percent when comparing just the housing payment and no other debt with the average monthly gross income.

In addition to comparing affordability from 2019 to 2020, the analysts reviewed historical averages of affordability. In the third quarter of 2020, just 37 percent of counties were more affordable than their historical averages, down from 46 percent of counties that were more affordable than usual during the third quarter of 2019.

Some counties became more affordable than their historical averages during the third quarter of 2020, including New York County (Manhattan); Suffolk County (Long Island); Montgomery County, Md.; Cook County (Chicago); and Fairfax County, Va.

While those counties became slightly more affordable than their historical averages, the reasons for that change can include a mix of lower mortgage rates, rising average wages and lower home prices.

For the full report, click here.

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