Bay Area housing: It’s even harder than you thought to buy

Despite today’s high tech salaries, two-income households, and a swelling economy, the current generation of Bay Area residents spends much more of their income to buy a house compared to their parents and grandparents.

The typical Bay Area home buyer in the 1960s paid about twice the median annual income for a house, while home hunters today pay nearly nine times the median annual income, according to a new study by Clever Real Estate. The region’s median annual household income is roughly $100,000.

San Jose is the least affordable metro in the U.S. to buy a home, requiring nearly 10 times the median income to buy the typical house, according to the real estate company’s study of household income and housing costs. The East Bay and San Francisco demand nearly 9 times the median salary for a home — far above the recommended 2.6 price-to-income ratio.

“It’s a crazy disparity in some parts of the country,” said Thomas O’Shaughnessy, head of research at the St. Louis-based discount real estate website. Although affordability has declined in most major cities, he said, “it’s really the most noticeable in San Francisco and San Jose.”

The Bay Area housing market has already raced into record territory this decade with an unprecedented, seven-year run of increasing home prices.

Median home prices have leveled off this year in most of the nine-county region since hitting a peak of $928,00 in May 2018, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic. Home sales have also slowed, although more units have come on the market in recent months.

Real estate agents say prices may be soaring past the budgets of most would-be home buyers. Affordability remains elusive for many potential home buyers unable to save nearly $200,000 for a down payment on a median-priced Bay Area house, and then pay $4,500 in monthly mortgage, taxes and insurance.

Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said the region had always been expensive, but the recent, dramatic increases in housing and real estate prices have pushed up the cost of living. Restaurants, dry cleaners, barbers and other service providers are pressured to raise prices as their rents go up.

A person can’t order and get a haircut online, Levy noted.

The national picture also has gotten bleaker for prospective homeowners since their parents and grandparents generations, according to Clever Real Estate’s analysis of census and home data. Since 1960, median home prices in the U.S. adjusted for inflation have increased 121 percent, while rents have grown 72 percent. At the same time, U.S. median household income has grown 29 percent, according to the study.

In 1960, a typical U.S. family needed two years of income to pay for a home, a price-to-income ratio of 2 to 1. Today, the ratio is about 3.6 to 1.

Just a handful of cities across the country meet the affordability guideline of a price about 2.6 times annual income, mostly in the Rust Belt and Midwest. Two Ohio cities, Toledo and Dayton, were among the most affordable spots, along with Scranton, Pa., Syracuse, N.Y., and Wichita, Kan., according to the study.

Eight of the ten least affordable cities were in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Oxnard. The typical home buyer in San Bernardino, spends a greater percentage of income on a home than a buyer in New York City.

Elliot Eisenberg, partner economist at MLS Listings, said the combination of high costs for land and materials, shortage of labor and the state’s difficult regulatory environment have choked new homes and apartments from being built.  “These are failed markets,” he said. “This is truly a housing market that’s a complete wreck.”


Article source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/07/29/bay-area-housing-its-even-harder-than-you-thought-to-buy/

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