Housing deficit offsets affordability boost from low mortgage rates

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Consumer home buying power rose 13.7% annually in June and 1.1% from last month, according to First American's Real House Price Index. That compared to a 15.9% annual jump and a 1.3% month-to-month increase in May.

The Real House Price Index — a metric that adjusts residential property prices for income and mortgage rate fluctuations — fell 4.8% annually and 0.2% month-over-month. Drops in real house prices equate to better affordability for potential buyers. Even with interest rates declining further into the summer, swelling demand constricted inventory to record-low levels, leading to home price growth and cuts in affordability. In May, RHPI dropped 7.3% annually and 0.3% monthly.

"Housing’s strong rebound has been driven by several factors that existed before the coronavirus outbreak but have continued or even gained strength amid the pandemic," Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American, said in the report. "Yet, all real estate is local and affordability dynamics can vary greatly at the market level. While the path of economic recovery remains uncertain, the dynamics in these markets demonstrate how changes in house-buying power influences affordability."

By state, Vermont led the country with a 10.6% increase in RHPI from June 2019. Gains of 10.3% in New Mexico and 9.4% in Montana followed.

RHPI decreased the furthest in Louisiana, down 10.1% annually, trailed by falls of 7.4% in New Hampshire and 7.1% in West Virginia.

Broken down by metro area, RHPI rose in 35 of the 44 largest markets tracked. New York's 29.3% jump led all increases, with San Diego's 19.4% and Pittsburgh's 15% next. Las Vegas dropped the most at 25.6%, followed by falls of 13.7% in Providence, R.I., and 5.8% in Cleveland.

"Faster nominal house price appreciation and lower household income can erode, or even completely eliminate, the affordability boost from today’s record low mortgage rates. From June 2019 until April 2020, affordability was improving for all top markets as house-buying power outpaced house price appreciation," Fleming said. "However, as the pandemic and its impacts linger, house-buying power is no longer winning the affordability tug-of-war against nominal house price appreciation in many markets."

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Purchasing power Housing affordability Housing inventory Home prices Housing market Mortgage rates First American Financial Corp. Digital Mortgage 2020 Originations