Last week, NAR released its latest quarterly metropolitan price and affordability figures. The lion’s share of metropolitan areas continued to experience strong year-over-year price growth in the fourth quarter. A companion metro area annual affordability report shows less favorable conditions, particularly in the West.
The median existing single-family home price increased in 73 percent of measured markets, with 119 out of 164 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the fourth quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.
NAR’s national annual Housing Affordability Index, with breakouts for metropolitan areas, fell to 175.8 in 2013 from a record high 196.5 in 2012. For first-time buyers making small downpayments, the affordability levels are relatively lower. The index is calculated on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average effective mortgage interest rate. The higher the index, the stronger household purchasing power; recordkeeping began in 1970.
- The strongest improvements in median sale prices over the four-quarter period ending in June of 2013 were dominated by markets from the Sun Belt and Atlanta. These markets experienced some of the largest price declines following the subprime bust and economic recessions which were followed with a subsequent spike in foreclosures.
- While investors in lower-priced properties in these markets led the early increases in home purchases and price growth in 2011, steady price appreciation in these markets has helped to attract additional investors and first-time homebuyers into the fray, spreading the price appreciation and stability to other portions of the market.
- Several of the markets that experienced price declines are in states with a judicial foreclosure which take additional time relative to non-judicial states and create uncertainty for lenders. This uncertainty has weighed on price recovery in judicial states.
- Additional information on price dynamics is available in the Local Market Reports for the 2nd quarter of 2013.
- Strong sales growth this spring whittled down inventories resulting in rising prices in a majority of markets.
- Of the 146 markets reporting data in the first quarter, 109 or 75% reported an increase in the median home price compared to the same time period in 2011. This improvement stands in contrast to just 23 markets or 16% that showed a gain over the prior 24-month period from June of 2009 through June of 2011.
- Price growth is important for the health of each local market as it boosts consumer confidence and spending, enables more homeowners to refinance to record low mortgage rates, and helps other homeowners avoid rolling into foreclosure.
- For the latest Local Market Reports from NAR Research, click here.
- The following table shows the top 10 metro areas with more than 1 million households  that require the least amount of income to purchase a typically priced home .
- Detroit is number one on the list, while Chicago rounds out the bottom of the top 10.
- While most of the metro areas on the list are from the middle of the country, Tampa, FL and Riverside, CA are currently affordable enough to be found in the top 10.
- Homeownership and vacancy rates for these metros fall around the US average of 66 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
- Find out how qualifying incomes compare in your metro area.
 23 metro areas and divisions covered in NAR’s initial review of 149 metro areas met the 1 million household threshold according to Census 2010 data.
 Qualifying income calculated by limiting the monthly principle and interest payment to 25 percent of income. The mortgage payment is calculated for a median priced home in the metro area assuming the given down payment and a 4 percent mortgage rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.
Sub-4% mortgage rates and five years of flat or falling home prices have driven affordability conditions to record highs. Combined with improving consumer confidence and a warm spring, sales surged in the 1st quarter posting the strongest 1st quarter figures since 2007. The result was upward pressure on prices which grew in more than 50% of the metro markets monitored by NAR Research in the 1st quarter of 2012. At the top of the list was Cape Coral, Florida where the median home price jumped 28.1% over the 4-quarter period ending in the 1st quarter of 2012. Three more markets from Florida made the list of top-10 in term of price growth, but the Midwest, Peoria and Ft. Wayne, as well as Upstate New York, Erie and Elmira, were also well represented.
For more information on price trends in local housing markets, see the Local Market Reports for the 1st quarter of 2012.