Affordability inches higher but buyers still need to earn $120,000

Despite record-high home prices, homes became more affordable thanks to higher incomes and lower mortgage rates.

Bigger paychecks and smaller mortgage rates helped homebuyers during the third quarter, offsetting record-high home prices in California.

Thirty-one percent of households in the state could afford the median-priced home in the July-September period, a slight increase from 30% during the second quarter — and up from 27% a year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Affordability rate by county and income needed to purchase median-priced home

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It’s better but far from the record-high 56% affordability rate in third-quarter 2012, when the California housing market was continuing to recover from the Great Recession and the housing slide.

Of course, buying a home costs a lot in the Golden State. Homebuyers would need to earn at least $120,400 in order to qualify for $613,470 median-priced home in the state, based on a 20% down payment. The monthly payment would be about $3,010.

Kings County reigns as most affordable

The Bay Area was the least affordable region of the state at 29%, a dramatic increase from the 21% in third-quarter 2018. 

San Francisco was the least affordable in the Bay Area and the state at 18%. The median-home price in San Francisco was $1.58 million, requiring homebuyers to earn at least $309,600 per year in order to make the $7,740 payment.

San Mateo County was the second least-affordable market at 20% in the state, followed by Marin, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz counties at 22%.

The Central Valley, from Bakersfield to Sacramento, is easily the most affordable region, with four of the 11 counties at 50%-plus. Kings County is the most affordable at 55%, thanks to a median-home price of $257,000.

Ron Trujillo

Ron Trujillo

Longtime business journalist-turned-communications executive who enjoys reporting on residential real estate in his spare time.