November 14, 2011

Current Housing Market Most Affordable Since 1987

In the aggregate, is housing more affordable than in previous decades? According to the National Association of Realtors, the answer is “yes.”

Housing prices have fallen dramatically since their peak, and the 30-year mortgage rate has fallen from the mid-6% range to 4% since the peak of the housing bubble (a 250-basis-point decline). When you combine the decline in national housing prices with a massive decline in mortgage rates, housing is suddenly more affordable than it has been since 1987 (at least at the national level).

If that’s the case, though, why is the housing market still stuck in a rut?

For one, unemployment is still high (and also stuck in a rut), and there is still an enormous inventory of foreclosed properties on the balance sheets of banks, GSEs, and investors.

Even the Los Angeles housing market is more affordable than it has been in decades because higher-tier house prices have returned to February 2004 levels and remained stable.

Unfortunately, Los Angeles has high unemployment that is declining at a slow rate. So LA is more affordable than it used to be, but not as affordable as some markets (like Phoenix).

Ultimately, the housing market is recovering slowly, and, depending on your location, you might already be seeing some improvements.

Professor Sanders appeared on FBN’s The Willis Report last week as an academic voice for their ‘Housing Summit.’ You can find more of his comments on LA’s (and the nation’s) housing market prospects on his blog Confounded Interest.