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How a slight rise in Chicago home prices damages affordability

by James F. McClister

NAHB-homebuilder-real-estate-affordability-homeownership

Affordability is a chief concern in the Chicago real estate market, as it is in many markets. But even though it’s a popular talking point for industry insiders, few understand the true volatility of “affordable.” To some families, the line keeping them out of homeownership is as thin as $1,000.

Or at least that was the point the National Association of Homebuilders made in a recent report, in which the group claimed that an increase of $1,000 to Chicago’s median home price would effectively price out 5,148 prospective buyers. The amount is comparable to several other large U.S. metros, as the below table shows.

CityMedian New Home PriceIncome needed to qualifyTotal HouseholdsHouseholds Priced Out
Atlanta$234,693$57,2852,077,0903,968
Boston$389,567$97,1141,787,5062,184
Chicago$322,565$92,6633,500,0535,148
Denver$337,854$77,0261,097,9071,449
Houston$230,661$68,3622,361,8704,663
Las Vegas$184,718$42,591750,7371,703
New York$544,070$147,2677,097,4774,054
Philadelphia$270,854$72,7482,236,7013,169
Seattle$377,187$89,9531,468,8671,968
Washington, D.C.$385,700$91,4122,190,6262,758

Nationwide, the same increase to would make a median-priced single-family home unaffordable for 152,903.

The purpose of NAHB’s report wasn’t to scare homeowners into purchasing before prices go up; or to urge agents to push property’s hard in the face of possible appreciation; but rather to emphasize the importance of maintaining affordability in an uncertain housing environment, where homeownership is at historic lows and, in many markets, prices are reaching and even exceeding their peaks.

The message is particularly topical, as the mortgage rate has been spiking since President-elect Trump’s victory. And as the NAHB included in its report, an increase in the rate from 4 percent to 4.25 percent would push 965,000 households out of buying range for a median-priced home.

The day after the election, the rate on a 30-year FRM was 3.73 percent. On Dec. 7, it had risen to 4.15 percent.

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