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Report: Homes deemed unaffordable in most U.S. counties

Compared to historical levels, median home prices in 560 of the 575 counties analyzed in the second quarter of 2022 are less affordable than in the past to the average wage earners in those counties. (Robert Galbraith/REUTERS)
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The combination of rapidly rising mortgage rates and double-digit increases in home prices led to an easily predictable consequence during the second quarter of 2022: The median home is less affordable to median wage earners in 97 percent of counties in the U.S. compared to historic averages.

That compares to 69 percent of counties that were historically less affordable in the second quarter of 2021, according to the latest Home Affordability Report from ATTOM, a real estate data firm, and is the highest point since 2007, just before the collapse of the housing market and the Great Recession.

ATTOM analyzes average wages and the mortgage, property taxes and insurance required for a median-priced single-family home in each county to determine affordability. The analysts assume buyers would make a 20 percent down payment and would spend a maximum of 28 percent of their gross monthly income on their housing payment.

However, the typical down payment for first-time buyers is between 6 and 7 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. For repeat buyers, the typical down payment is 17 percent. A lower down payment would require buyers to borrow more money, which would make their monthly housing payments even higher and therefore less affordable.

Compared to historical levels, median home prices in 560 of the 575 counties analyzed in the second quarter of 2022 are less affordable than in the past to the average wage earners in those counties. In other words, buying a house would consume a higher percentage of the average paycheck than in the past.

In addition to comparing housing costs to historic averages, ATTOM’s researchers found that the median home is unaffordable to average wage earners in 67 percent of counties. The largest counties by population where homes are unaffordable, meaning costs would require more than 28 percent of the average buyer’s gross monthly income, include Los Angeles, Maricopa (Phoenix), San Diego, Orange (outside Los Angeles) and Kings County (Brooklyn).

The largest among the 187 counties where median-priced homes remain affordable for the average local worker include Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Philadelphia, Franklin (Columbus, Ohio) and Hennepin (Minneapolis).

Annual wages of more than $75,000 are required to pay for the median-priced home in 40 percent of the markets in ATTOM’s report. As is often the case, the 20 counties that require the highest annual wages are in coastal areas, primarily in California. The top two counties with the highest income needed to buy a house are New York (Manhattan), where an annual income of $362,691 is required to buy the typical house; and San Mateo outside San Francisco, where an annual income of $357,567 is required. In the District of Columbia, an annual income of $112,099 is required to buy a median-priced house.

The counties with the lowest required wages to afford a median-priced house include Schuylkill (outside Allentown, Pa.), where you need $17,595 to buy; Cambria (outside Pittsburgh), which requires an annual income of $20,171; Mercer (outside Pittsburgh), which requires an income of $23,255; Fayette County (outside Pittsburgh), which requires an income of $23,638; and Bibb (Macon, Ga.), which requires an income of $24,501.

For the full report, click here.

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