By Carla Hill
Housing affordability is still at a record high, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It is at the highest level since record keeping began in 1970. This is based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate.
NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said this latest data underscores buyer opportunities in today’s market. "This is the first time the housing affordability index has broken the two hundred mark, meaning the typical family has roughly double the income needed to purchase a median-priced home," he said. "For buyers who can qualify for a mortgage, now is a very good time to become a homeowner."
Projections for the remainder of 2012 indicate that this affordability high will continue and rates will remain low. "Housing inventory levels have declined to a point where conditions are becoming much more balanced in much of the country," Veissi said. "If access to credit improves, we could see a much more meaningful increase in home sales and broader stabilization in home prices with modest gains in areas with stronger job growth."
Despite these incredible buyer opportunities, builder confidence is down. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that builder confidence for newly built, single-family homes declined for the first time in seven months.
"What we’re seeing is essentially a pause in what had been a fairly rapid build-up in builder confidence that started last September," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "This is partly because interest expressed by buyers in the past few months has yet to translate into expected sales activity, but is also reflective of the ongoing challenges that are slowing the housing recovery - particularly tight credit conditions for builders and buyers, competition from foreclosures and problems with obtaining accurate appraisals."
This has been an ongoing concern for many market activists. While housing affordability is at an all-time high, gaining access to credit is a tough road for many would-be buyers. Additionally, some would-be buyers are still wary of the market and are waiting on the sidelines for the economy to improve or market conditions to stabilize.
Regionally, results varied. The Northeast was the only region to see a gain in builder confidence, posting a 4 point gain on the HMI scale. The West remained unchanged, but both the West and South posted declines. Single-family home production held steady for the month. The multi-family sector saw a double digit decline, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, FL, reported, "While more consumers appear to be seriously considering a new-home purchase, builders remain very cautious about starting new projects until they see more actual sales materializing.