Based on the headlines, home prices outpace wage growth. Indeed, in the last six years home prices increased 47 percent while wages rose 16 percent. What do these percentage changes actually mean for a typical homebuyer? How much did the typical salary increase in dollars? How much more do buyers need to pay for their monthly payment because of the price increase?
NAR calculated the monthly earnings for a typical employee in both 2018 and 2012. Respectively, using the median home prices in 2018 and 2012, we also computed the monthly payment for a typical home for both years. Then, we compared the change of the average monthly wages in dollars with the change of the monthly payment in the last 6 years.
Nationwide, the monthly earnings of a typical employee rose by $530 to $3,784 in the fourth quarter of 2018 from $3,256 six years earlier. In the meantime, the monthly payment increased by $354 to $1,114 in 2018 from $760 in 2012. Thus, although home prices increased nearly three times more than wages (in percentage points), homebuyers needed to spend less than their salary increase for the higher mortgage payment. Noticeably, homebuyers needed to spend nearly two thirds of their salary increase (above the 30% rule) for the higher mortgage payment.
Since all real estate is local, we calculated how much both the monthly wage and mortgage payment changed during 2012 and 2018 for the 100 largest metro areas.
In the last six years, the Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA metro areas experienced the highest gains in wages. In both metro areas, the average monthly salary increased by $1,150 between 2012 and 2018. In the Seattle, WA metro area, the average monthly salary increased to $5,632 in the last quarter of 2018 from $4,479 six years earlier. However, in some metro areas, wages dropped. In the Tucson, AZ metro area, the average monthly earnings declined by $189. Similarly, in the Palm Bay, FL metro area the average monthly wages dropped by $172. Overall, the average monthly wages increased by $433 in the 100 largest metro areas.
In the meantime, home prices increased in all of the 100 largest metro areas except for the Bridgeport, CT metro area. As a result, current homebuyers need to pay a higher monthly mortgage payment for the same home compared to 2012. Among the 100 largest metro areas, San Jose, CA and San Francisco, CA metro areas experienced the highest increase in the monthly mortgage payment because of price appreciation. Specifically, in the San Jose, CA metro area, current homebuyers need to pay $2,428 per month more than in 2012 for the same home. However, overall, the monthly mortgage payment increased by $340 on average in the 100 largest metro areas.
Comparing the amount of the wage increase with the higher monthly mortgage payment, in 70 percent of the 100 largest metro areas, wages in dollars increased more than the mortgage payment. Moreover, in most of these metro areas, the increase of the mortgage payment accounted for less than 30 percent of the wage increase. For instance, in the Chicago, IL metro area the average monthly wage increased by $572 while the monthly mortgage payment rose by $326. Another example is the Dallas, TX metro area. In this area, homebuyers in 2018 earned $558 more every month than homebuyers in 2012 while the monthly mortgage payment increased $420 since 2012 because of the price appreciation.
See below the top 5 metro areas with the highest monthly income gains compared to the extra housing cost:
Nevertheless, the extra monthly housing cost exceeds the income gains in 30 percent of the 100 largest metro areas. For instance, in the San Jose, CA metro area, homebuyers in 2018 earned $549 more every month compared to the homebuyers in 2012. However, the monthly mortgage payment increased $2,428 since 2012 because of the price appreciation. This means that homebuyers will need to attribute a higher percentage of their monthly earnings to housing cost since their income gains are not enough to cover the extra housing cost.
Here are the top 5 metro areas where the extra housing cost exceeds income gains:
See below how much both the monthly wage and mortgage payment changed during 2012 and 2018 for each of the 100 largest metro areas.
Existing-home sales declined 2.3 percent in January from one month prior while new home sales dropped 7.8 percent. These headline figures are seasonally adjusted figures and are reported in the news. However, for everyday practitioners, simple raw counts of home sales are often more meaningful than the seasonally adjusted figures. The raw count determines income and helps better assess how busy the market has been.
Specifically, 313,000 existing-homes were sold in January while new home sales totaled 44,000. These raw counts represent a 27 percent decline for existing-home sales from one month prior while new home sales dropped 2 percent. What was the trend in recent years? Sales from December to January declined by 30 percent on average in the prior three years for existing-homes and rose by 10 percent for new homes. So this year, existing-homes outperformed compared to their recent norm while new home sale underperformed.
Why are seasonally adjusted figures reported in the news? To assess the overall trending direction of the economy, nearly all economic data – from GDP and employment to consumer price inflation and industrial production – are seasonally adjusted to account for regular events we can anticipate that have an effect on data around the same time each year. For example, if December raw retail sales rise by, say, 20 percent, we should not celebrate this higher figure if it is generally the case that December retail sales rise by 35 percent because of holiday gift buying activity. Similarly, we should not say that the labor market is crashing when the raw count on employment declines in September just as the summer vacation season ends. That is why economic figures are seasonally adjusted with special algorithms to account for the normal seasonal swings in figures and whether there were more business days (Monday to Friday) during the month. When seasonally adjusted data say an increase, then this is implying a truly strengthening condition.
What to expect about home sales in the upcoming months in terms of raw counts? Independent of headline seasonally adjusted figures, expect busier activity in the following two months. For example, in the past 3 years, February sales typically rose by 4 to 5 percent from January while March sales increased by 34 to 44 percent from February. For the new home sales market, the raw sales activity tends to increase in February and March. For example, in the past 3 years, February sales rose by 13 to 15 percent from January while sales in March increased by 2 to 20 percent from February.
Experts forecast that the U.S. economy is in for yet another solid year of strength, albeit not at the same level as in 2017. NAR expects that the mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage will rise to 4.4 percent in 2018 from 3.9 percent in the last quarter of 2017, an increase of 50 basis points this year. However, how will this change affect the monthly mortgage payment of homebuyers?
It is estimated that, on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $380,000, each half-point increase adds about $100 to the monthly payment. A homebuyer who wants to purchase a home with a value of $380,000 would pay $1,600 every month for the mortgage payment at a 3.9% mortgage rate. Assuming the mortgage rate increases to 4.4%, the buyer would pay $1,700 per month in order to buy the same home.
Among 177 metro areas, we see that 89% of these areas have a median home value lower than $380,000. This means that most homebuyers would see an increase of less than $100 in the monthly mortgage payment. While mortgage rates are still historically low, the expected increase in mortgage rates should not discourage people from buying a house.
We calculated the increase in the monthly payment for 177 metro areas when the mortgage rate increases from 3.9% to 4.4%. As we move to metro areas with higher prices, the dollar amount that is added to the monthly payment rises as well. In Youngstown, OH and Decatur, IL, a typical homebuyer will need to pay an extra $23 every month for a home with a value of $89,000. However, in the San Jose, CA metro area where the median home price is $1.17 million, the monthly payment would increase by $305.
Metro areas with high-priced homes
Depending on the type of homebuyer (first-time or repeat), homebuyers in metro areas with high priced homes may seek a lower priced home or stay longer in their existing home if they already own a house.
First-time homebuyers may look for a lower priced home or a smaller home, one with fewer amenities or a home in a more affordable area with a longer commute. We calculated how much the maximum purchase value would need to be reduced in order to retain the same monthly payment with a higher mortgage rate. For a 50 basis points increase in the mortgage rate, homebuyers need to purchase a home that is about 6% lower in price if they want the same monthly payment as they would pay at a lower rate.
For instance, in San Francisco, CA metro area, the median home value is $900,000. The monthly payment for a typical homebuyer is $3,820 at a 3.9% mortgage rate and a 10% down payment. However, at a 4.4% mortgage rate, the typical homebuyer needs to search for homes with a maximum purchase price of $847,700 to continue paying $3,820. Thus, the maximum purchase price is cut by $52,300.
Rising mortgage rate may push existing owners in these metro areas to stay in their homes longer. Although mortgage rates are still relatively low, some owners may not be able to get the same favorable terms compared to their existing mortgage, especially owners who bought their home in 2012 when mortgage rates reached their lowest level. In the meantime, these owners, who may stay longer in their home, will likely build more equity while home prices continue to grow as a result of the limited inventory. A typical homeowner in San Jose, CA metro area has accumulated $493,000 in equity as a result of the price appreciation in the last five years while the price of his home increased by $165,000 within the last year.
All in all, we see that many homebuyers in most metro areas will not be significantly affected by a higher rate of 4.4%. The visualization below allows you to see how much the monthly payment changes in 177 metro areas when the mortgage rate increases to 4.4% from 3.9%.