Average Wage Above Level Needed To Afford Typical Home in First Quarter of 2021; Historic Affordability Improved in First Quarter In About Half of U.S. Housing Markets; National Median Home Price Up 18 Percent Over First Quarter of 2020

IRVINE, Calif. – Apr. 1, 2021 — ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of the nation’s premier property database, today released its first-quarter 2021 U.S. Home Affordability Report, showing that median home prices of single-family homes and condos in the first quarter of this year were more affordable than historical averages in 52 percent of counties with enough data to analyze. That was down from 63 percent of counties in the first quarter of 2020 and 95 percent during the same period five years ago. But rising wages and falling mortgage rates still compensated for near-20 percent spikes in home prices over the past year, helping to keep median home prices affordable for average wage earners around the country.

The report determined affordability for average wage earners by calculating the amount of income needed to meet monthly home ownership expenses — including mortgage, property taxes and insurance — on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment and a 28 percent maximum “front-end” debt-to-income ratio. That required income was then compared to annualized average weekly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (see full methodology below). The 20-percent down payment criterion marks an update to ATTOM’s affordability analysis, which now shows smaller portions of income needed to afford home ownership than recent reports.

Compared to historical levels, median home prices in 287 of the 552 counties analyzed in the first quarter of 2021 were more affordable than past averages. That was down from 349 of the same group of counties in the first quarter of 2020, a trend that came during a 12-month period when the national median home price shot up 18 percent, to $278,000, in the first quarter of 2021.

Yet, with workplace pay rising and home mortgage rates continuing to hit historic lows, major expenses on a median-priced home nationwide still consumed just 23.7 percent of the average wage across the country in the first quarter of 2021. That figure was up from 22 percent in first quarter of 2020 and from 19.7 percent five years ago. But it remained well within the 28 percent standard lenders prefer for how much homeowners should spend on those major expenses.

Those mixed trends – homes remaining affordable but not quite as much as they have historically – happened amid a surge over the past year of home buyers who largely escaped the economic damage caused by the recent worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. As those home seekers pursued a dwindling supply of homes for sale, prices shot up – just not enough to significantly outweigh the benefits of increased wages and average mortgage rates that sat below 3 percent.

“The past year certainly has been an odd one for the U.S. housing market. Home prices surged at a remarkable pace even as the virus pandemic damaged the U.S. economy, which dropped historical affordability levels. But average workers untarnished by the pandemic were still able to afford the typical home because wages and rock-bottom interest rates worked to their favor in a big way,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “Much remains uncertain about the housing market in 2021. A lot will depend on how well the broader U.S. economy recovers from the pandemic and whether there are still many more buyers looking to escape congested neighborhoods most prone to the virus, pushing prices even higher. But for now, our data shows that average workers are able to manage the costs associated with rising values.”

Among the 552 counties in the report, 327 (59 percent) had major home-ownership expenses on typical homes in the first quarter of 2021 that were affordable for average local wage earners, based on the 28-percent guideline. The largest of those counties were Cook County (Chicago), IL; Harris County (Houston), TX; Dallas County, TX; Bexar County (San Antonio), TX, and Wayne County (Detroit), MI.

The most populous of the 225 counties where major expenses on median-priced homes were unaffordable for average local earners in the first quarter of 2021 (41 percent of the counties analyzed) were Los Angeles County, CA; Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ; San Diego County, CA; Orange County, (outside Los Angeles), CA and Miami-Dade County, FL.

Home prices up at least 10 percent in two-thirds of country

Median home prices in the first quarter of 2021 were up by at least 10 percent from the first quarter of 2020 in 360, or 65 percent, of the 552 counties included in the report. Counties were included if they had a population of at least 100,000 and at least 50 single-family home and condo sales in the first quarter of 2021.

Among the 42 counties with a population of at least 1 million, the biggest year-over-year gains in median prices during the first quarter of 2021 were in Wayne County (Detroit), MI (up 24 percent); Suffolk County, NY (outside New York City) (up 20 percent); Bronx County, NY (up 19 percent); Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ (up 19 percent) and Harris County (Houston), TX (up 18 percent).

Counties with a population of at least 1 million that had the smallest year-over-year increases (or price declines) in the first quarter of 2021 were New York County (Manhattan), NY (down 2 percent); Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA (up 7 percent); Hennepin County (Minneapolis), MN (up 7 percent); Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (up 8 percent) and Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (up 8 percent).

Price appreciation up more than wage growth in almost 90 percent of markets

Home price appreciation outpaced average weekly wage growth in the first quarter of 2021 in 474 of the 552 counties analyzed in the report (86 percent), with the largest counties including Los Angeles County, CA; Cook County (Chicago), IL; Harris County (Houston), TX; Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ and San Diego County, CA.

Average annualized wage growth outpaced home price appreciation in the first quarter of 2021 in only 78 of the 552 counties in the report (14 percent), including Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA; New York County (Manhattan), NY; Honolulu County, HI; San Francisco County, CA and Suffolk County (Boston), MA.

Less than 28 percent of wages needed to buy a home in six of every 10 markets

Major ownership costs on median-priced homes in the first quarter of 2021 consumed less than 28 percent of average local wages in 327 of the 552 counties analyzed in this report (59 percent).

Counties requiring the smallest percent were Schuylkill County, PA (outside Allentown) (6.3 percent of annualized weekly wages needed to buy a home); Bibb County (Macon), GA (8.3 percent); Fayette County, PA (outside Pittsburgh) (8.4 percent); Macon County (Decatur), IL (9.9 percent) and Robeson County, NC (outside Fayetteville) (10.6 percent).

Among the 42 counties in the report with a population of at least 1 million, those where home ownership typically consumed less than 28 percent of average local wages in the first quarter of 2021 included Wayne County (Detroit), MI (12.2 percent); Philadelphia County, PA (14.1 percent); Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH (14.4 percent); Fulton County (Atlanta), GA (19.4 percent) and Franklin County (Columbus), OH (19.5 percent).

A total of 225 counties in the report (41 percent) required more than 28 percent of annualized local weekly wages to afford a typical home in the first quarter of 2021. Those counties that required the greatest percentage of wages were Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (75.7 percent of annualized weekly wages needed to buy a home); Marin County, CA (outside San Francisco) (75.5 percent); Santa Cruz County, CA (69.9 percent); Monterey County, CA, (outside San Francisco) (68.1 percent) and Maui County, HI (65.9 percent).

Aside from Kings County, NY, counties with a population of at least 1 million where home ownership consumed more than 28 percent of average annualized local wages in the first quarter included Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (57.7 percent); Queens County, NY (56.3 percent); Nassau County, NY (outside New York City) (53.5 percent) and Alameda County (Oakland), CA (51.6 percent).

Average wages needed to afford median-priced home exceed $75,000 in less than 15 percent of markets

Annual wages of more than $75,000 were needed in the first quarter of 2021 to afford the typical home in just 75, or 14 percent, of the 552 markets in the report.

The highest annual wages required to afford the typical home were in New York County (Manhattan), NY ($247,802); San Mateo County (outside San Francisco), CA ($230,848); Marin County (outside San Francisco), CA ($218,830); San Francisco County, CA ($212,892) and Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA ($207,691).

The lowest annual wages required to afford a median-priced home in the first quarter of 2021 were in Schuylkill County, PA (outside Allentown) ($10,089); Fayette County, PA (outside Pittsburgh) ($12,957); Bibb County (Macon), GA ($13,708); Robeson County, NC (outside Fayetteville) ($14,133) and Cambria County, PA (east of Pittsburgh) ($16,251).

Slight majority of housing markets more affordable than historic averages

Among the 552 counties analyzed in the report, 287 (52 percent) were more affordable in the first quarter of 2021 than their historic affordability averages, down from 63 percent of the same group of counties that were more affordable historically in the first quarter of 2020.

Counties with a population of at least 1 million that were more affordable than their historic averages (indexes of more 100 are considered more affordable compared to historic averages) included New York County (Manhattan), NY (index of 128); Montgomery County, MD (outside Washington, D.C.) (121); Cook County (Chicago), IL (114); King County (Seattle), WA (110) and Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA (108).

Counties with the best affordability indexes in the first quarter of 2021 included Schuylkill County, PA (outside Allentown) (index of 195); Macon County (Decatur), IL (188); Fayette County, PA (outside Pittsburgh) (171); Calcasieu Parish (Lake Charles), LA (149) and Bibb County (Macon), GA (146).

Among counties with a population of at least 1 million, those where the affordability indexes improved the most from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 were New York County (Manhattan), NY (index up 14 percent); Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA (up 7 percent); Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (up 3 percent); Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (up 3 percent) and Hennepin County (Minneapolis), MN (up 2 percent).

Slightly fewer than half of markets less affordable than historic averages

Among the 552 counties in the report, 265 (48 percent) were less affordable than their historic affordability averages in the first quarter of 2021, up from 37 percent in the first quarter of last year.

Counties with a population greater than 1 million that were less affordable than their historic averages (indexes of less than 100 are considered less affordable compared to their historic averages) included Wayne County (Detroit), MI (index of 78); Dallas County, TX (81); Tarrant County (Fort Worth), TX  (82); Harris County (Houston), TX (83) and Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ (86).

Counties with the worst affordability indexes in the first quarter of 2021 were Canyon County, ID (outside Boise) (index of 67); Grayson County, TX (outside Dallas) (72); Ada County (Boise), ID (74); St. Louis City/County, MO (75) and Bonneville County (Idaho Falls), ID (76).

Counties with a population of least 1 million residents where affordability indexes decreased the most from the first quarter of 2020 to the same period in 2021 included Wayne County (Detroit), MI (index down 11 percent); Harris County (Houston), TX (down 11 percent); Dallas County, TX (down 8 percent); Bronx County (down 8 percent) and Oakland County, MI (outside Detroit) (down 8 percent).

Report Methodology

The ATTOM Data Solutions U.S. Home Affordability Index analyzes median home prices derived from publicly recorded sales deed data collected by ATTOM Data Solutions and average wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 552 U.S. counties with a combined population of 245.7 million. The affordability index is based on the percentage of average wages needed to pay for major expenses on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and a 20 percent down payment. Those expenses include property taxes, home insurance, mortgage payments and mortgage insurance. Average 30-year fixed interest rates from the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey were used to calculate the monthly house payments.

The report determined affordability for average wage earners by calculating the amount of income needed for major home ownership expenses on a median-priced home, assuming a loan of 80 percent of the purchase price and a 28 percent maximum “front-end” debt-to-income ratio. For example, the nationwide median home price of $278,000 in the first quarter of 2021 required an annual wage of $52,523, based on a $222,400 loan and monthly expenses not exceeding the 28 percent barrier — meaning households would not be spending more than 28 percent of their income on mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance. That required income was less than the $61,984 average wage nationwide based on the most recent average weekly wage data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making a median-priced home nationwide unaffordable for average workers.

About ATTOM Data Solutions

ATTOM Data Solutions provides premium property data to power products that improve transparency, innovation, efficiency and disruption in a data-driven economy. ATTOM multi-sources property tax, deed, mortgage, foreclosure, environmental risk, natural hazard, and neighborhood data for more than 155 million U.S. residential and commercial properties covering 99 percent of the nation’s population. A rigorous data management process involving more than 20 steps validates, standardizes and enhances the data collected by ATTOM, assigning each property record with a persistent, unique ID — the ATTOM ID. The 9TB ATTOM Data Warehouse fuels innovation in many industries including mortgage, real estate, insurance, marketing, government and more through *flexible data delivery solutions that include bulk file licenses, property data APIs, real estate market trends, marketing lists, match & append and introducing the first property data delivery solution, a cloud-based data platform that streamlines data management – Data-as-a-Service (DaaS).

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