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Santa Cruz, Marin counties among least affordable in U.S.

Santa Cruz, Marin counties among least affordable in U.S.

Report looked at 47 metrics, including housing costs and health care services

California had five of the 10 most expensive counties to buy a home during the second quarter in the nation, based on the median-home price compared to paychecks.

Santa Cruz County is the least affordable housing market in California, and second-most expensive in the U.S., with only 6.6% of annual wages as a part of the median-home price of $770,000, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

The beachside city, best-known for a boardwalk and a state university, is only behind Kings County, New York.

How other California cities fared:

  1. Marin County: 7.3% of annual wages based on the median-home price of $1.01 million.
  2. San Luis Obispo County: 8.5% of annual wages based on the median-home price of $560,000.
  3. Monterey County: 8.9% of annual wages based on the median-home price of $538,750.
  4. Sonoma County: 9.1% of annual wages based on the median-home price of $591,000.

‘Typical home remains out of reach’

Nationwide, three of four housing markets (74%) were not affordable for average wage earners, according to ATTOM Data. 

San Luis Obispo County is among the least affordable regions in the U.S. Jeffrey T. Kreulen/Shutterstock

Affordability for average wage earners is determined by calculating the amount of income needed to make monthly housing payments — including mortgage, property taxes and insurance — on a median-priced home, assuming a 3% down payment and a 28% maximum front-end debt-to-income ratio.

(The California Association of Realtors uses different data and factors to determine affordability, but only 32% of families could buy a home during the first quarter.)

“Despite falling mortgage rates and rising wages, the cost of owning the typical home remains out of reach or a significant financial stretch for the nation’s average wage earners,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “However, a closer look at the data reveals milder-than-usual increases for the Spring, and none as severe as in previous years since the recession. Therefore, this can help indicate the market may be easing, following similar indicators from recent home-flipping and foreclosure data trends.”

ATTOM Data also offers city-by-city affordability rates. Just click on the interactive map below.

Feature photo of Capitol Village in Santa Cruz by Yhelfman/Shutterstock

About the author
About the author

Ron Trujillo, an award-winning business journalist-turned-public relations executive, is the editor-owner of CalHomeNews and can be reached at

Four CA cities among best 20 for families

California is expensive, but there are some cities in the state that are great places to raise a family, according to a new report.

Fremont and Irvine finished as the second- and third-best cities for families in the U.S., behind only Overland, Kansas, according to WalletHub. The two cities were among the top scores for education, health and safety, and socioeconomics — and offsetting their hefty housing prices.

San Jose and San Diego finished at Nos. 16 and 18, respectively. 

WalletHub compared more than 180 cities based on 47 key metrics important to family dynamics, such as the cost of housing, quality of local schools and health-care systems, and the opportunities for fun and recreation.

Of course, with any list of the best cities comes the bottom-of-the list places, also known as the worst places for families. 

San Bernardino finished at No. 176 on the 182 cities listed, with Detroit taking the last spot.

Photo of Fremont by Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Mortgage-free? Not to be for many in CA

Almost two of every five homeowners are free and clear of a monthly mortgage payment in the U.S., though the figure drops to 29% in California, according to Zillow.

Despite a big boost in home prices in recent years, many homeowners bought with little down and endure hefty mortgage payments in California. Washington, D.C., another market with fast-rising prices, had the lowest percentage of homeowners without a mortgage at 24%. However, quite a few California homeowners are considered “equity rich,” where they owe less than half of their mortgage principal based on the current value of their home.

Low-cost housing states such as West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico and Arkansas have the most mortgage-free owners at more than 45%.


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