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Twin Cities area ranks No. 2 in housing affordability

  • Article by: Jim Buchta
  • Star Tribune
  • October 23, 2013 - 9:01 PM

 

Rising mortgage rates and higher prices are jacking up the cost of homeownership, but those increases are affecting local buyers far less than in other parts of the country.

The Twin Cities metro area had the second-highest rate of affordability in the nation this year, according to an annual survey by Interest.com. The group found that the median household income in the Twin Cities exceeded the income needed to buy a median-priced home in the area by 24 percent.

“It really says that you’ve got a pretty healthy housing market in Minneapolis,” said Mike Sante, managing editor of Interest.com. “And that means you’ll have money left over to do other things, whether furnishing your house or taking a vacation, and most importantly, saving for the future.”

The median household income in the Twin Cities rose 4.62 percent over past year — one of the biggest gains in the nation, while the median home price increased 14 percent to nearly $200,000.

Among the nation’s 25 largest metro areas the survey tracked, average incomes grew 3 percent while home prices rose nearly 16 percent. Interest rates also increased nearly a full percentage point over the past year, rising to about 4.5 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

According to the survey, Atlanta is the nation’s most affordable market, with the median household income exceeding the income required to buy an average home by 25 percent. In San Francisco, the least affordable market, the median-income household falls 48 percent short of the income needed to buy an average home. “A lot of people there feel ‘house poor,’ ” Sante said. “They feel like they’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

A monthly housing affordability index compiled by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors shows a similar trend, with declines in housing affordability nearly doubling starting in May when mortgage rates began to rise.

Andy Fazendin, president of Roger Fazendin Realtors and the current president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, says that relative to pre-boom levels, housing affordability is still historically high in the Twin Cities.

“This is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Rising interest rates are a good thing because it means the economy is getting better and the labor market is healing, but yes, it does detract from the affordability picture, which was arguably way higher than it ever should have been under normal circumstances.”

At this point, he said, higher prices haven’t been a deterrent to buyers, but he expects that will change as rates and home prices rise.

Ed Nelson, communications manager for the Minnesota Homeownership Center, said he worries that as affordability wanes, buyers will feel a sense of pressure to get into the market and take the kinds of financial risks that many people took before the crash.

“One of the dangerous implications of declining affordability is the fear that we’ll see a resurgence in the ‘you must buy now’ mentality and scams,” he said. “Many buyers purchased during the boom because they felt that if they didn’t they’d never be able to, leading many to purchase before they were ready.”

 

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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