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Quarterly Market Report: Higher Home Prices Substantially Diminish California Housing Affordability in First Quarter 2021

Published Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Higher home prices substantially diminish California housing affordability in first quarter 2021, C.A.R. reports

  • Twenty-seven percent of California households could afford to purchase the $720,490 median-priced home in the first quarter of 2021, down from 35 percent in first-quarter 2020 and unchanged from fourth-quarter 2020.
     
  • A minimum annual income of $131,200 was needed to make monthly payments of $3,280, including principal, interest and taxes on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a 3.08 percent interest rate.
     
  • Forty percent of home buyers were able to purchase the $535,000 median-priced condo or townhome. An annual income of $97,600 was required to make a monthly payment of $2,440.

 

LOS ANGELES (May 11) – Housing affordability in California remained at the lowest level since mid-2018 as higher home prices fueled by a shortage of homes for sale pushed the state’s median home price more than 22 percent higher on a year-over-year basis, resulting in an 8 percentage-point annual decline in California’s housing affordability index in the first quarter of 2021, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said today.

The percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in first-quarter 2021 dropped to 27 percent from 35 percent in the first quarter of 2020 and was unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2020, according to C.A.R.’s Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI). The first-quarter 2021 figure is less than half of the affordability index peak of 56 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

C.A.R.’s HAI measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California. C.A.R. also reports affordability indices for regions and select counties within the state. The index is considered the most fundamental measure of housing well-being for home buyers in the state.

A minimum annual income of $131,200 was needed to qualify for the purchase of a $720,490 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the first quarter of 2021. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $3,280, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 3.08 percent. The effective composite interest rate was 2.96 percent in fourth-quarter 2020 and 3.70 percent in first-quarter 2020. 

Housing affordability for condominiums and townhomes also declined in first-quarter 2021 compared to a year ago, with 40 percent of California households earning the minimum income to qualify for the purchase of a $535,000 median-priced condominium/townhome, down from 44 percent a year ago and from 41 percent in fourth-quarter 2020. An annual income of $97,600 was required to make monthly payments of $2,440.

Compared with California, more than half of the nation’s households (54 percent) could afford to purchase a $319,200 median-priced home, which required a minimum annual income of $58,000 to make monthly payments of $1,450. Nationwide affordability also fell from 59 percent a year ago.

Key points from the first-quarter 2021 Housing Affordability report include:

  • Housing affordability held even on an annual basis in only two tracked counties (San Francisco and Santa Clara) and declined in 49 counties. Compared to the previous quarter, housing affordability declined in 33 counties, improved in eight counties and was unchanged in 10 counties.
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, affordability declined from a year ago in every county except San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, which held even. San Mateo County was the least affordable, with just 19 percent of households able to purchase the $1,850,000 median-priced home. Forty-four percent of Solano County households could afford the $525,000 median-priced home, making it the most affordable Bay Area county.
  • Affordability fell from a year ago in all Southern California counties with Orange County being the least affordable (20 percent) and San Bernardino County being the most affordable (45 percent).
  • In the Central Valley region, Kings County was the most affordable at 58 percent, and San Benito was the least affordable at 31 percent.
  • In the Central Coast region, Santa Barbara County was the least affordable at 14 percent and San Luis Obispo County was the most affordable at 25 percent.
  • During the first quarter of 2021, Lassen (62 percent) remained the most affordable county in the state, followed by Kings (58 percent), Siskiyou (49 percent), and Tuolumne (49 percent). The minimum qualifying income was less than $64,000 for each of these counties. Lassen also had the lowest minimum qualifying annual income to purchase a median-priced home at $45,200.  
  • Mono (3 percent), Santa Barbara (14 percent), and Monterey (17 percent) were the least affordable counties in the state, with each of them requiring at least a minimum annual income of $157,600 to purchase a median-priced home in the county. San Mateo remained the least affordable county in the state and required the highest minimum qualifying annual income of $337,200 in the first quarter of 2021. It was the only county in California that had a minimum qualifying annual income of over $300,000 in first-quarter 2021. 

See C.A.R.’s historical housing affordability data.
See first-time buyer housing affordability data.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 110 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States with more than 200,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

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