First-time homebuyers need to earn more to afford a home except in these 3 metros

Home Buyers

It just got more difficult to become a homeowner.

A first-time homebuyer would have to earn close to $64,500 − or 13% more from a year earlier − to afford a “starter home,” according to a new analysis from Redfin.

The typical starter home sold for a record $243,000 in June, up 2.1% from a year earlier and up more than 45% from before the pandemic.

Low housing inventory levels are causing home prices of lower-priced homes despite rising mortgage rates due to intense competition, say experts.

However, in three metros including San Francisco, Austin Texas, and Phoenix, a homebuyer could get away by earning a little less (anywhere between 1% to 4.5%) than the previous year and still afford a home. Whereas, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a homebuyer would need to earn 28% more than last year to gain a foothold in the housing market.

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“Buyers searching for starter homes in today’s market are on a wild goose chase because in many parts of the country, there’s no such thing as a starter home anymore,” said Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari.

The analysis defines “affordable” or “starter” homes as homes estimated to be in the 5th-35th percentile by sale price. It factors how much annual income is needed to afford a starter home if a buyer taking out a mortgage spends no more than 30% of their income on their housing payment.

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New listings of starter homes for sale dropped 23% from a year earlier in June, the biggest drop since the start of the pandemic. The total number of starter homes on the market is down 15%, also the biggest drop since the start of the pandemic.

Limited listings and still-rising prices have caused sales of starter homes to drop 17% year over year in June.

In some metro markets, though, first-time buyers don’t need to earn as much as they did a year ago to afford a starter home.

San Francisco, Austin and Phoenix: The only three major US metros where prices declined

A homebuyer in San Francisco must earn $241,200 to afford the typical “starter” home, down 4.5% ($11,300) from a year earlier. Austin buyers must earn $92,000, down 3.3% year over year, and Phoenix buyers must earn $86,100, down about 1%. Those are also the metros where prices of starter homes have declined most, with median sale prices down 13.3% to $910,000 in San Francisco, down 12.2% to $347,300 in Austin, and down 9.7% to $325,000 in Phoenix.

Starter-home prices are falling in those three metros after skyrocketing in 2020 and 2021.

Bay Area prices soared as buyers used record-low mortgage rates as an opportunity to jump into the expensive market while Austin and Phoenix prices shot up as an influx of remote workers moving into those places drove up the competition, according to Redfin.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates have more than doubled and the demand for remote-work relocations has subdued, cooling the housing markets in Austin and Phoenix.

High mortgage rates have made San Francisco real estate more expensive even as tech workers aren’t as tied to city centers as they once were.

Metros where first-time homebuyers need to earn a lot more

Fort Lauderdale buyers need to earn $58,300 per year to purchase a $220,000 home, the typical price for a starter home in that area, up 28% from a year earlier. That’s the biggest change in the 50 most populous U.S. metros.

In Miami, buyers need to earn $79,500 (up 24.8%) to afford the typical $300,000 starter home.

The third top metro where homebuyers have to earn more is Newark, New Jersey, where buyers need to earn $88,800 per year (up 21.1%) to afford a $335,000 home. Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Newark also had the biggest starter-home price increases, with prices up 15.8% year over year, 13.2% and 9.8%, respectively.

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