Recent increases in mortgage rates aren’t — yet at least — dampening homebuyers’ purchasing power. In fact, housing affordability is at its best in a quarter-century, says Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American Financial Corp. Recent wage growth is helping to offset rising rates and home prices.
The firm’s September house price index shows that real house prices rose 1 percent month-over-month. The First American Real House Price Index measures the price changes of single-family properties and adjusts for the impact of income and interest rate changes across the country. Real house prices currently are 40.4 percent below their housing boom peak in July 2006, and nearly 20 percent below the level of prices in January 2000, according to the index.
“While a small uptick in rates in September caused an increase in real house prices compared to August, it is important to remember that mortgage rates remain at historically low levels,” says Fleming. “The low rates, combined with recent meaningful income gains, fueled an increase in consumer house-buying power, meaning affordability is at a quarter-century best. Even as interest rates increase above 4 percent post-election, housing, on a purchasing-power adjusted basis, will continue to be more affordable than it was in the early 1990s.”
Mortgage rates rose from 3.4 percent to 3.6 percent between August and September.
Affordability continues to increase in more markets, including markets considered by many to be overvalued, such as San Francisco and New York, Fleming notes. In fact, San Francisco, Virginia Beach, Va., Oklahoma City, and San Jose, Calif. topped First American’s list for improved affordability. Each metro saw year-over-year declines of 3 percent or more.
Rising incomes are having a big impact on consumer’s buying power. The median household income rose an estimated 2 percent year-over-year.
“Long-awaited increases in income levels are contributing to falling real house prices in many markets,” says Fleming. “Nominally, the price recovery is officially complete, but in real purchasing-power adjusted terms, house prices are still far below the pre-decline peak. The underlying story is consumer house-buying power is better than it has been in a generation.”
Source: First American Financial Corp.