RALEIGH – Homes in Wake County are among the least affordable in the country, according to a new analysis of real estate market data and wage data conducted by ATTOM Data Solutions.  Meanwhile, in Durham County, the situation isn’t quite as bad — but homes are also getting harder to buy there as well.

First, let’s look at Wake County.

The study, which tracks housing affordability as it relates to wages and income in 586 counties across the United States, finds that an average wage earner cannot currently afford to purchase a Wake County home at the median price.

The data shows a median price in Wake County of $410,000.

ATTOM’s calculations regarding home affordability would require median annual wages of at least $76,378.  But ATTOM found that annualized weekly wages in the county equate to an annual income of $67,522.

Prepare for a bidding war: Most Triangle home sales top list price, some by $100K+

Second largest decline in U.S.

Of all counties in the United States that have a million or more residents, Wake County’s housing affordability has decreased the second most, according to ATTOM data.

The data shows a drop of 25.7 percent from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022.

St. Louis County, Missouri, was the county that experienced the greatest decline in affordability in that time span, of the 49 counties with more than a million residents.

“It’s certainly no surprise that affordability is more challenging today for prospective homebuyers than it was a year ago,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence for ATTOM, in response to a request from WRAL TechWire.  “Historically low mortgage rates and higher wages helped offset rising home prices over the past few years, but as home prices continue to soar and interest rates approach five percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan, more consumers are going to struggle to find a property they can comfortably afford.”

A March 2022 market update from the Triangle Multiple Listing Service also found that homes in the Triangle have never been less affordable.

Triangle homes have never been less affordable

The Durham County picture

It’s not just Wake County where housing affordability has dropped—Durham County homes are also less affordable than they were a year ago, as well, the ATTOM data shows.

Among the 586 U.S. counties with a population of at least 200,000 residents, Durham County ranks 46th in terms of worsening affordability.  In the first quarter of 2022, housing affordability decreased by 24.4 percent, the study found.

But the median home price in the first quarter in Durham County was $342,000, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.  And the annualized weekly wages used to measure annual income resulted in a higher figure than in Wake County—the report measured this at $81,900 whereas an annual salary of $64,839 would make the median priced home an affordable one in the county.

The report determined affordability for average wage earners by calculating the amount of income needed to meet major monthly home ownership expenses — including mortgage, property taxes and insurance — on a median-priced single-family home.  The calculations assumed a 20 percent down payment and a 28 percent maximum “front-end” debt-to-income ratio.  That required income was then compared to annualized average weekly wage data from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Affordability may worsen, too, as mortgage interest rates have again ticked up this week.  The most recent data from Freddie Mac showing average rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage of 4.72 percent, up 1.59 points from a year ago.

Raleigh homes are about to get even less affordable, economists find

Keeping renters on the sidelines?

Housing affordability continues to be a concern for would-be first-time homebuyers, a new study from Redfin found.

According to the national survey of 1,500 renters, 32 percent reported that they cannot afford to buy a home in a location they wish to live, and 3 in 10 respondents said they’re unable to save for a down payment.

In that same survey, the most common obstacle toward saving for a home purchase was debt, though the study did not further break down the type of debt that presents financial obstacles to renters as they consider their living options.  The option available for respondents listed debt as the broad category, and provided”credit cards, student loans, medical bills, automotive, etc.” as a descriptive note.  According to Redfin, 45 percent of respondents cited debt as an obstacle.

But 44% of respondents also said that home prices in their areas was a financial obstacle that has kept them from pursuing buying a home.

In addition, among the respondents who reported they would be moving within the next three months, 11 percent of respondents said that the reason they would be moving is because the property owner was selling the home where they were the tenant.

Housing affordability in Triangle, across NC, a chief concern of business leaders at Economic Forecast Forum