MagnifyMoney: 2016 Housing Affordability Study

Housing Affordability StudyAs the cost of housing soars ever higher and household earnings remain stubbornly stagnant, how realistic is homeownership for young people today?

Saving up for a new home can feel like an endless slog for young working Americans. The upfront costs alone — the down payment, closing costs, property taxes, etc. — are enough to scare off prospective buyers who are struggling to make ends meet.

Just over one-third of Americans under age 35 owned homes as of mid-2016, down 12% from 2010, according to U.S. Census data. While homeownership rates fell across all age groups during that same period, none experienced a steeper drop-off than the under-35s.

MagnifyMoney wanted to figure out how realistic homeownership is for young Americans today — that is, how long it would take them to save up for a new home in their area if they started saving now.

Calculating Home Affordability

Our analysis revealed two different sets of buyers — those who can afford the cost of a new home in their area and those who cannot. Affordability was largely driven by a worker’s ability to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in their metro area. Given these two different cases, we used two methods to determine how long it would take these groups to save for a home.

For buyers who can’t afford a large enough mortgage:

We assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage that the borrower can afford to take.

We then took the mortgage amount they would qualify for and subtracted it from the cost of a median-priced home in their area to find the mortgage gap they need to fill. Then, we added other necessary upfront costs: 4.5% closing costs and a standard emergency cash reserve equal to one month’s mortgage payment.

We determined, based on the median income for their age, how long it would take to save that amount, assuming a 20% savings rate.

Example:

We estimate a 25 to 44 year-old homebuyer in Salinas, Calif., would reasonably qualify for a $275,385 mortgage. A median-priced home in Salinas, Calif., costs $750,000. So, she would have to save at least $474,615 to fill the mortgage gap. On top of that, she would pay another $33,750 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and need to set aside a $1,274 emergency cash reserve.

In total, she would need to come up with $509,612 to be able to buy a home in her area. If she saved 20% of her income toward that goal, it would take her 46.75 years.

For buyers who can afford a large enough mortgage:

Once again, we assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage the borrower can afford to take.

We then determined how much they’d need to save for a 20% down payment. We added to that the cost of closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.

For example:

A median-priced home in Johnstown, Penn., costs $74,900. So this buyer would have to save at least $14,980 to cover a 20% down payment. On top of that, he would pay another $3,370 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and set aside $1,370 in an emergency cash reserve.

In total, he’d need to save $19,720. Saving 20% of his income toward this goal, it would take him 1.85 years.

Key Findings

  • Get ready for the long haul: Of the 380 metro areas we analyzed, we found no place in America where a worker of any age group could realistically save up for a new home in less than a year.Across all 380 metro areas analyzed…
    • 45 to 65 year-olds would need an average of 4.69 years to save for a home.
    • 25 to 44 year-olds would need an average of 5.63 years to save for a home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds would an average of 27.2 years to save for a home.
  • Where homeownership is completely out of reach:
    • In 79% of metros (79 out of 380), workers of all age groups wouldn’t be able to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median priced home in 357 out of 380 metros analyzed (93.95%).
    • 25 to 44 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 68 out of 380 metros analyzed (17.89%).
    • 45 to 65 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 29 out of 380 metros analyzed (7.63%).

The least and most affordable metros for 25 to 44-year-olds

25-44-The-Most-Easiest-Places
25-44-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 25 to 44-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Johnstown, Penn., is the easiest place for 25 to 44 year-olds to save for a home. The key: Affordable housing is in abundance. A median-priced home in Johnstown is $74,900. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $19,720. Earning the median annual income for that area of $53,164, they would need just 1.85 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Salinas, Calif., is the most difficult metro area for 25 to 44 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Earning the median annual salary of $54,499 and looking at a median-priced home listed at $750,000, they would need a staggering 46.75 years to save up enough. The reason? On an annual household income of $54,499, a homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $271,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan, leaving a half-million-dollar gap to fill.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas are located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions. On average, it would take just 2.28 years for a 25 to 44 year-old to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • California is where homeownership dreams go to die: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 25 to 44 year-old homebuyers are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas is a whopping 29.15 years.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 7.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 53.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 34.47% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 5.00% of metro areas.

The least and most affordable metros for 45 to 65-year-olds

45-65-The-Most-Easiest-Places
45-65-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 45 to 65-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Danville, Ill., is the easiest place for 45 to 65 year-olds to save for a home today. A median-priced home in Danville is $68,200. With goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $18,012. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($51,975), they would need just 1.73 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Homeownership dreams don’t get any more realistic with age in Salinas, Calif. It is also the most difficult metro area for 45 to 65 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Even though this age group earns a median income 22% higher than 25 to 44 year-olds in this area, it would still take them nearly three decades (28.98 years) to save up for a median-priced home of $750,000. On an annual household income of $70,368, a 45 to 65 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $377,567 30-year fixed-rate loan, leaving a massive gap to fill — even without including closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 16.32% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 57.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 3.16% of metro areas.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas for 45 to 65 year-olds are also located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under three years (2.08) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • The California struggle: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 45 to 65 year-old homebuyers also are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas for this age group is a whopping 19.72 years.

The least and most affordable metros for 15 to 24-year-olds

15-24-The-Easiest-Places
15-24-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 15 to 24-year olds:

Of course, we don’t know many 15-year-olds who are shopping around for a single-family home these days, but U.S. Census Bureau data limited us to this age range. However, our findings still shine a light into the challenges facing the youngest homebuyers.

  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 0% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 1.58% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.42% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 75.00% of metro areas.
  • The most affordable metro area: Sheboygan, Wisc., is the easiest place for 15 to 24 year-olds to save for a home today. Although median-priced homes are relatively more expensive in Sheboygan ($134,900) than other inexpensive metro areas on this list, young workers there earn relatively higher salaries, which enables them to save more toward future home costs. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $33,877. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($38,510), they would need just 4.40 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., isn’t simply a difficult place for young workers to save for a home — it’s pretty much impossible. On an annual household income of $21,178, a 15 to 24 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $36,506 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan. With a median-priced home listed at $769,500, their mortgage loan would hardly make a dent. They would need 181.27 years to save enough to fill in that gap.
    • In the 10 most expensive metros, it would take 15 to 24 year-olds an average of 129.53 years to save for a home.
  • Things look much better in the South and Midwest: The 10 most affordable metro areas for 15 to 24 year-olds are also located in the Midwest and the South, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under five years (4.79) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • Surprisingly expensive metros for 15 to 24 year-olds:
    • While 6 out of the 10 most expensive metro areas are located in California, there were some surprising findings in other states.
      • The 4th most expensive metro is Corvallis, Ore. Home prices are half as high as the most expensive metros on this list, but median incomes for this age group are among the lowest: $12,369.
      • Morgantown, W.Va., is the 6th most unaffordable metro for the youngest workers. 15 to 24 year-old workers in Morgantown earn among the lowest median incomes in the 380 metros we analyzed: $8,805.

Housing Affordability Calculator

Find out how long it would take you to save up for a home in your area.

Download the data behind this report:

Data analysis was conducted by Naveen Agarwal, MagnifyMoney Senior Data Analyst.

Metro Rankings for Ages 15 to 25

Metro Rankings for Ages 25 to 44

Metro Rankings for Ages 45 to 65

Metro Rankings for Ages 65 and Up

Metros by State: Searchable Database

Full Study Data

Appendix/Data Sources

Home prices: June 2016 median listing prices data provided by Zillow

Median income: Annual household income by age group and metropolitan area for 2014: U.S. Census Bureau.

Real Estate/Property Taxes: Real estate taxes for owner occupied units for metropolitan areas: U.S. Census Bureau

Mortgage interest rate: Bankrate.com National average on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.57% as of Sept. 1, 2016.

Downpayment: We assume a downpayment of 20%.

Savings rate: We assume homebuyers would save 20% of their annual take-home pay.

Closing costs: We assume closing costs of 4.5%.

Home Insurance rates by metro area: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

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