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Buying a house is more affordable in NJ

In nearly one-third of housing markets across the country, buying a home is less affordable now than it has been over the last 14 years. But in New Jersey, homes are more affordable.

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That’s according to a new report from RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for realty data, which found that a third of more than 1,000 counties analyzed nationwide have surpassed their historical averages for income-to-price affordability percentages since 2000. In New Jersey, there has not yet been as rapid of a bounceback in home prices as there has been in other markets.

The report looked at both the percentage of median income needed to make monthly payments on a median-priced home in each county in May 2014, and the historical trend in each county’s income-to-price affordability percentage going back to January 2000. It also analyzed the impact of rising interest rates on affordability, calculating the percentage of median income needed to make payments on a median-priced home if interest rates rise by a quarter percentage point, a half percentage point, three-quarters percentage point or a full percentage point.

“The good news is that none of the nearly 1,200 counties we analyzed for the second quarter has regressed to the dangerously low affordability levels reached during the housing price bubble, and even if interest rates increased one percentage point, only 59 counties representing 2 percent of the U.S. population would be at or above bubble levels in terms of affordability,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, in a press release Thursday. “But the scales are beginning to tip away from the extremely favorable affordability climate we’ve seen over the last two years, with one-third of the counties analyzed now less affordable than their long-term averages.”

Blomquist broke down New Jersey’s numbers a bit further.

“In New Jersey, Cape May County had the least affordability,” he said. “In order to buy a median-priced home, median-income earners would have to spend 36 percent of their monthly income. Hudson and Essex Counties rounded out the bottom three. On the other end of the spectrum, Salem, Sussex and Cumberland counties were among the most affordable.”

In fact, 81 percent of the U.S. population lives in markets where the percentage of income needed to purchase a median-priced home is at or below its long-term average, according to Blomquist. Consistently affordable markets included Wayne County, Michigan; Marion County, Indiana; and Baltimore City, Maryland; while some of the least affordable counties in the report included the five boroughs of New York City; San Fransisco County; and Nantucket County in Massachusetts. Markets that have both affordable housing and a good job market can be found mostly in the middle of the country near Columbus, Ohio, Oklahoma City and Minneapolis to name a few.

One concern is that in most parts of the country, home prices are rising faster than incomes.

“We’ve seen jobs come back, but not necessarily jobs that pay more, so that will be the next step that will help the housing recovery,” Blomquist said. “Even in New Jersey, when we look at the incomes, from 2008 to 2012, on average in the New Jersey counties they were down about 1 percent during that time period while home prices went up 4 percent. Those two trends can’t keep going in the direction they’re going and see affordability for housing continue to be favorable.”

To see the complete report, visit www.realtytrac.com/trendcenter.

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