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Housing becoming harder to afford in US

By HENG WEILI in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-03 09:50

In nearly half of the United States, someone looking to buy a median-priced home now needs a six-figure income, a new study has found.

To afford a median-priced home of $402,343, people in the US need an annual income of $110,871, according to an analysis published on Monday by Bankrate, a consumer financial services company in Florida.

By contrast, in January 2020, potential homebuyers needed an income of $76,191 to afford a typical home.

Bankrate's analysis found that US people need a $100,000-plus income to purchase a home in 22 states and Washington, DC. Four years ago, six states and Washington, DC, required such a salary to buy a median-priced home.

"The higher the price of a home, the harder it is to come up with the down payment or to qualify for the monthly payment," Jeff Ostrowski, a housing market analyst at Bankrate, said.

Driving the real estate market are higher interest rates and lower availability.

"If rates go down just another percentage point — that's what I'm hoping for by year-end — prices are going to go through the roof," said real estate entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran on Fox Business Network. "Everyone's going to charge the market."

Rising loan rate

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the US was 6.57 percent on Monday, according to Zillow, a real estate marketplace.

At the start of 2021, the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan was 2.65 percent, according to data from Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored company that buys loans in the secondary mortgage market.

Many homeowners who locked in low mortgage rates during the pandemic are staying put to avoid the high rates. Hence, there are fewer homes up for sale.

"Over the past few years, the supply of homes has been constrained by a number of factors, including muted homebuilding and the lock-in (mortgage-rate) effect," Ostrowski said. "But demand for homes has been growing, and there are more buyers than sellers."

There could be some mortgagerate relief, however, as the US Federal Reserve has said it expects to cut rates three times this year. But that could also hinge on the easing of inflation, which has been increasing at a lower rate but is still above the central bank's preferred level of 2 percent.

Not surprisingly, you will need more money to buy a house on the East and West coasts. The South and the Midwest, meanwhile, are the most affordable.

"It's all about home-price appreciation," Ostrowski said. "The states with the most dramatic increases in income needed to afford a home have experienced above-average appreciation in recent years, while those at the bottom of the list have seen much more modest rises in home prices."

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