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The Most (and Least) Affordable Counties for Homeowners

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Home prices have been rising faster than incomes for years. In 2019, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that home prices had risen 47% over the previous 6 years compared to wages at just 16%. Real estate analytics firm ATTOM Data Solutions recently reconfirmed the trend. After evaluating 487 U.S. counties in the third quarter of 2020, they found that home prices were increasing faster than wages in 90% of the communities.

So where are the deals and where do you need to stretch a dollar? ATTOM ranked the counties by affordability. They defined affordable as a median-priced home whose mortgage (including taxes and insurance) wouldn’t cost more than 28% of the average income in the county. They also assumed homeowners would make a 20% down payment. Here’s what they found.

Most expensive counties

In 299 of the 487 counties analyzed, a median-priced home’s mortgage required more than 28% of a county’s average wage. The most expensive counties ATTOM identified were:

  • Marin County, California (near San Francisco)–By ATTOM’s estimate, you’d have to spend 105.7% of Marin’s average annual wage to afford a median-priced home.
  • Santa Cruz County, California (near San Jose)–88.7%
  • Kings County (Brooklyn), New York–86%
  • Monterey County, California (near San Francisco)–83.7%
  • Maui County, Hawaii–78.7%

So, how much would you need to earn to afford a “typical home” in Marin County? At least $284,052, according to ATTOM.

Least expensive counties

On the opposite end of the spectrum, ATTOM found that there were 188 counties in the U.S. where you wouldn’t need to spend over 28% of the average wages to afford a median-priced home. The least-expensive counties included:

  • Baltimore City/County, Maryland–12%
  • Calhoun County (Battle Creek), Michigan–13.6%
  • Rock Island County (Davenport), Illinois–13.6%
  • Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre), Pennsylvania–13.7%
  • Richmond County (Augusta), Georgia–14%

While Luzerne wasn’t the least-expensive county, ATTOM estimated you could afford a median-priced home there with the least income: $22,104.

They also found that homes were “less affordable than historical averages” in 63% of the communities they evaluated. Does that mean you’ll be priced out of a county you’ve had your eye on? Not necessarily. Mortgage rates have reached historic lows in recent months and a variety of factors determine a mortgage payment, like your down payment and loan term. For an idea of what may be “affordable” to you, check out our mortgage payment calculator or talk to one of our Mortgage Professionals at 833-702-2511 to learn more.

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