Housing affordability falls to 10-year low in Palm Beach County, nation

Mirroring a national trend of rebounding home prices and rising mortgage rates, Palm Beach County saw housing affordability fall to a 10-year low in the second quarter of 2018, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

Just 54.9 percent of homes sold in Palm Beach County in the second quarter were affordable to a median-income family, according to the index. That's the lowest affordability reading since 2008.

That’s based on a median home price of $260,000 (the measure combines new and existing houses, condos and townhouses) and a median income of $71,800.

Henry Kaplan, sales manager at Century 21 Tenace Realty in Boynton Beach, said affordability has become an increasing issue for buyers in Palm Beach County. 

"You've got to have the right combination of income, credit and down payment," Kaplan said.

The housing market has been slowed in part because move-up buyers need to sell their homes before they can afford to buy another place, Kaplan said.

"It's a quandary, because people don't want to list, until they know where they're going," Kaplan said.

Palm Beach County’s affordability reached its nadir during the housing bubble and lending frenzy of 2007, when just 28 percent of homes were in reach of a typical buyer.

Related: West Palm Beach has nation’s hottest mansion market, brokerage says

Nationally, 57.1 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of April and end of June were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $71,900, the National Association of Home Builders said. That was down from the 61.6 percent of homes sold in the first quarter that were affordable to median-income earners and the lowest reading since mid-2008.

The national median home price jumped from $252,000 in the first quarter of 2018 to $265,000 in the second quarter—the highest quarterly median price on record. At the same time, average mortgage rates rose to 4.67 percent in the second quarter from 4.34 percent in the first quarter.

Related: Amid affordability squeeze, builder markets $300,000 houses

“Rising household formations, along with a strong economic expansion in the second quarter that has fueled job growth, will support housing demand in the second half of 2018,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, growing trade war concerns and the expectation of higher mortgage rates are additional headwinds negatively affecting housing affordability.”

Syracuse, N.Y., was the nation’s most affordable major housing market. There, 89.1 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the second quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $74,100. 

San Francisco remained the nation’s least affordable major market. Just 5.5 percent of the homes sold in the second quarter of 2018 were affordable to families earning San Francisco’s median income of $119,600.

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