Recently, I submitted a posting that outlined the results for Demographia's 8th Annual International Housing Survey: 2012. In that posting, I summarized the housing markets for all seven nations in the study, showing the most expensive and least expensive when measured using the concept of median multiplier which is defined as the multiple of the median household income that it takes to purchase a median house in a given market; for example, in a market with a median house price of $150,000 and a median household income of $50,000 the median multiple would be 3.0. What I'd like to do in this posting, is pick out the markets that are most affordable and least affordable across the United States and compare the 2011 data to Demographia's past database from 2007, just before the Great Recession and collapse of the housing bubble to see how affordability has changed.
To begin, let's remind ourselves how Demographia breaks down its median multiple data into affordability brackets:
Across the United States, Demographia considers housing affordable with a national average median multiple of 3.0. In 2011, of the 211 markets, 117 (55.5%) were considered affordable, 64 (30.3%) were considered moderately unaffordable, 16 (7.6%) were considered seriously unaffordable and 14 (6.6%) were considered severely unaffordable. In 2007, of the 107 markets in the study, only 35 (32.7%) were considered affordable, 28 (26.2%) were considered moderately unaffordable, 17 (15.9%) were considered seriously unaffordable and a whopping 27 (25.2%) were considered severely unaffordable. You can quite quickly see that housing affordability has certainly improved across most markets in the United States.
Here is a list of the top 20 most affordable markets in 2011:
You'll notice right away that the most affordable markets are found in the economically-challenged industrial heartland of America but, from the data in the chart, you'll also notice that the drop in median multiple from the peak was rather small (i.e. housing was quite affordable before the housing market decline), likely because the economy had already suffered from massive de-industrialization prior to the Great Recession. It is also interesting to note the appearance of 3 "sun and sand belt" markets with Phoenix seeing the greatest affordability adjustment; in 2007, the multiple of 5.1 rendered the market severely unaffordable. This multiple for this market has plummeted to 2.2 making it America's 20th most affordable real estate market.
Here is a list of the top 20 least affordable markets in 2011:
Honolulu comes in as the least affordable market in the United States (and fourth least affordable in the survey among the seven nations), however it is marginally more affordable than it was in 2007 when the multiple was 10.3. Most of the remainder of the least affordable markets are in California and the New England States but it is important to note that several of these markets have suffered from severe affordability readjustments, the worst being Los Angeles. In the case of Los Angeles, in 2007, the median multiple was a stratospheric 11.4, the highest in the six nation study. A median home was priced at $582,000 with median household income of only $51,800. In 2011, a median home in Los Angeles had dropped to $324,800, a downward correction of 44 percent. San Diego also saw its median multiple fall from 10.5 to 6.1 and its median house price drop from $601,900 to a mere $270,000, a massive correction of 68 percent. Now that's a bursting bubble!
In summary, from this data we can readily see that, on average, housing in the United States in many markets is becoming better (and probably more realistically) valued for a larger number of purchasers. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans, these price readjustments have been accompanied by a great deal of pain; millions of foreclosures and underwater home owners can most certainly attest to that. It is an extremely difficult way to learn that housing markets that are priced beyond a certain point are not in equilibrium are likely to correct, a lesson that will ultimately be learned by some homeowners in overheated real estate markets in countries including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom that have yet to see a housing market correction of any significance.