California Housing Affordability Reaches Record High

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Mark J. Perry
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The California Association of Realtors' (CAR) Traditional Housing Affordability Index ((HAI)) measures the percentage of households that can afford to purchase the median priced home in the state and regions of California based on traditional assumptions (methodology here).

The chart above shows the California Housing Affordability Index over the entire history of the series, quarterly from 1988:Q1 through 2008:Q4 (data here and here). In the fourth quarter of 2008, the index reached the highest level in its history, 43%, which means that 43% of California households can afford to purchase the median priced home with a 20% down payment and financing at the national effective average mortgage rate.

In some parts of California, the Housing Affordability Index is as high as 61% (Sacramento), 65% (High Desert), and 56% (Riverside/San Bernardino); and in some areas as low as 17% (San Francisco and Contra Costa) and 19% (Marin).

With falling mortgage rates and falling median home prices, the CAR Housing Affordability Index will likely continue to rise in 2009, which will play a significant role in the recovery process for the California real estate market.

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Mark J. Perry profile picture
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Dr. Mark J. Perry is a full professor of economics at the Flint campus of The University of Michigan, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in economics and finance since 1996. Starting in the fall of 2009, Perry has also held a joint appointment as a scholar at The American Enterprise Institute. Perry holds two graduate degrees in economics (M.A. and Ph.D.) from George Mason University and in addition, and has an MBA degree in finance from The University of Minnesota. In addition to an active scholarly research agenda, Perry enjoys writing op-eds for a general audience on current economic issues and his opinion pieces have appeared in most major newspapers around the country, including USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, The Hill, Washington Examiner, Dallas Morning News, Sacramento Bee, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Miami Herald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and many others. Mark Perry has been best known in recent years as the creator and editor of one of the nation’s most popular economics blogs, Carpe Diem. Professor Perry has written on a daily basis since the fall of 2006 to share his thoughts, opinions and expertise on economic issues, with a strong emphasis on displaying economic data in a visually appealing way using graphs, charts and tables.
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