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Economy in Brief

Housing Affordability Rises in March
by Sandy Batten  May 11, 2021

• Incomes boosted in March by another round of government stimulus payments.

• Both prices and mortgage rates rise in March.

The National Association of Realtors' Fixed Rate Mortgage Housing Affordability Index increased 1.3% in March to 173.6 from a downwardly revised 171.3 in February (initially 173.1). It was 3.5% higher than a year ago. When the Housing Affordability Index equals 100, this means that a family earning the median income can qualify for an 80% mortgage on a median-priced existing single-family home. An index above 100 indicates that a family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for an 80% mortgage loan on a median-priced home. This index has been above 100 in each month since June 1989, reaching its all-time high of 213.3 in January 2013.

In February, median family income jumped up 11.4% m/m, boosted by the third round of stimulus checks from the federal government, after having fallen 4.9% in February. House prices continued their ascent, with the median sales price for an existing single-family home rising 6.2% m/m in March, its largest monthly increase since March 2013, to $334,500. The effective mortgage interest rate increased 27 basis points to 3.13% in March, its highest level since June 2020 and largest monthly increase since December 2016. The rise in the median house prices combined with the rise in the mortgage rate pushed up the monthly payment by 9.9% m/m to $1,147 in March, its largest monthly increase in the series history dating back to 1981. This represented 14.4% of median income, down from 14.6% in February.

Data on Housing Affordability can be found in Haver's REALTOR database. Median sales prices are located in USECON. Higher frequency interest rate data can be found in SURVEYW, WEEKLY, and DAILY.

Housing Affordability Mar Feb Jan Y/Y% 2020 2019 2018
Fixed Rate Mortgage Housing Affordability Index (100+=More Affordable) 173.6 171.3 186.0 3.5 172.0 161.1 147.9
  Payment as a Percent of Income 14.4 14.6 13.4 14.9 14.5 15.5 17.0
  Principal and Interest Payment ($) 1,147 1,044 1,011 12.9 1,028 1,044 1,079
  Monthly Mortgage Rate (%)   3.13 2.86 2.79 3.51 3.17 4.04 4.72
  Median Family Income ($) 95,585 85,817 90,239 16.9 84,843 80,704 76,401
  Median Sales Price (Existing Single-Family Home, $) 334,500 315,100 308,000 18.4 298,708 272,333 259,458
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