Bay Area Homes More Affordable Than Ever

Photo of a San Francisco hillside crowded with homes
Buying a home in the Bay Area is within reach of more households than ever before.

It’s official: Buying a home in the Bay Area has never been more affordable.

We’re pleased to report that the California Association of Realtors has released its quarterly Housing Affordability Index, and the percentage of households that could afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in the Bay Area rose to 45 percent in the first three months of 2012, a big jump from the 39 percent who could afford to buy one a year earlier.

That’s a record-high percentage, according to the C.A.R., which found similar jumps in affordability all across California.

Statewide, housing affordability rose to 56 percent of households, up from 53 percent a year ago. The C.A.R. attributed the increase to record-low interest rates and stabilization in home prices.

At a time when rental prices are zooming out of sight and economic reports point to a sustained recovery, this latest news should help convince nervous home buyers – and sellers – that the time is right to enter the market.

In the Bay Area, all six counties served by Pacific Union International saw significant jumps in housing affordability. Alameda County led the way, vaulting 10 percentage points – to 45 percent of households in the first quarter, from 35 percent a year earlier.

The Wine Country remains the most affordable location in the Bay Area, with 51 percent of households in Sonoma County and 50 percent in Napa County able to afford a home in the first quarter. That’s up from 47 percent in Sonoma in the first quarter of 2011, and 48 percent in Napa.

In Contra Costa County, housing affordability rose to 36 percent from 30 percent, and in Marin County to 32 percent from 27 percent.

San Francisco is the least affordable county in California, but even here the latest numbers favor homebuyers:  Housing affordability rose to 29 percent of households in the first quarter, from 25 percent a year earlier.

Across the Bay Area, the median price for a home – the midpoint in the range of homes for sale – was $447,970 at the end of the first quarter, and the monthly payment, including taxes, insurance, and a 30-year fixed-rate loan, was $2,259, assuming a 20-percent down payment and an interest rate of 4.16 percent. The minimum qualifying annual income for such a home was $90,373. Here’s a breakdown, by county:

Alameda $408,680 $2,061 $82,447
Contra Costa $537,440 $2,711 $108,423
Marin $694,060 $3,500 $140,019
Napa $348,720 $1,759 $70,351
San Francisco $607,230 $3,063 $122,502
Sonoma $323,370 $1,631 $65,236

(Photo courtesy of Findfado, via Flickr.)

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