Buyers still wondering if conditions finally are perfect for jumping into the housing market can look at five major U.S. metropolitan areas to get a resounding "yes" to that question.
Super-low interest rates -- a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.42% for the week ending Thursday (last year at this time it was 5.12%), according to Freddie Mac -- and home prices still languishing has made housing in several metro markets about as affordable as it ever will get, according to a just-released National Assn. of Home builders and Wells Fargo survey.
"Homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for almost a generation," says NAHB chairman Bob Jones.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index revealed that 72.3% of all new and existing homes sold in the quarter ending June 30 were affordable. Affordability is based on families earning the median income of $64,400, and those earning the median in their metro area spending no more than 28% of their income on housing. Until 2009, the index never had reached 70%.
So, where to drop anchor for the most affordable housing in the country? (all figures reflect the period ending June 30)
1. SYRACUSE, NY: The median price of a home was $88,000, with an affordability score of 97.2%., ranked this upstate New York city the nation's most affordable. The median income was $64,300. Unemployment there in June was 7.8%, well below the nation's average. The city is home to Syracuse University.
2. INDIANAPOLIS, IN: The median price was $113,000, with an affordability score of 94.3%. The median income was $68,700. The capital of Indiana, this metro area has a population of 7 million. It was bumped from first place for affordability for the first time in nearly five years.
3. DETROIT, MI: The median price was $85,000, with an affordability score of 93.8%.The median income was $55,900. With the auto industry rebounding, hope blazes that the 14% unemployment rate will drop. Still, Motor City is not a mecca for buyers, even with the low housing prices; the metro area population dropped 1.1% since 2000. But this is the city for bargains, especially if you're looking for a foreclosed property. It's easy to find a home priced at under $60,000.
4. YOUNGSTOWN, OH: The median price of a home was $74,000, with an affordability score of 93.3%. The median income was $53,500. With an unemployment rate of 11.9% in June, this once mighty hub of the steel industry has housing bargains galore. If you're young and starting out, it's easy to get a home with a monthly mortgage of $500.
5. BUFFALO, NY: If you like it cold in the winter, and inexpensive year-round, this is your city. The median price of a home was $112,000. The affordability score was 93.3%; the median income was $63,700. A population and industry hub until World War II, the city still offers stately homes and the State University of New York, Buffalo.
The nation's least-affordable housing market remains the New York metro area, where the median price of a home is $426,000, while the median income is $65,600. Only 19.9% all homes sold were affordable. If you have to ask...
The five most affordable major U.S. housing markets