Affordability Declined for Third Month in a Row, According to First American Real House Price Index
Affordability trends in the coming months will hinge on the supply and demand dynamics behind nominal house price appreciation – dynamics which will play out differently in each market, says Chief Economist Mark Fleming
July 27, 2021, Santa Ana, Calif.
First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, today released the May 2021 First American Real House Price Index (RHPI). The RHPI measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the U.S. adjusted for the impact of income and interest rate changes on consumer house-buying power over time at national, state and metropolitan area levels. Because the RHPI adjusts for house-buying power, it also serves as a measure of housing affordability.
Chief Economist Analysis: Record Nominal House Price Appreciation Outpaces House-Buying Power Growth in May
“Housing affordability declined on a year-over-year basis for the third month in a row in May, following a two-year streak of rising affordability,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “The decline in May occurred even as two of the three key drivers of the Real House Price Index (RHPI), household income and mortgage rates, swung in favor of greater affordability relative to one year ago.
“House-buying power increased by 8 percent in May compared with a year ago, propelled by lower mortgage rates and higher household income. The affordability gains from house-buying power, however, were offset by the third component of the RHPI, nominal house price appreciation, which reached a record 18 percent in May, surpassing the previous peak from 2005,” said Fleming. “As always, real estate is local and national affordability trends are not necessarily reflected in local trends, as house-buying power and nominal house price gains vary greatly from city to city.”
Affordability Declined in 49 of the 50 Major Markets
“The drop in affordability was broadly felt as affordability declined year over year in 49 of the 50 markets we track,” said Fleming. “The five markets with the greatest year-over-year decline in affordability were:
1.) Phoenix (-22.7 percent)
2.) Seattle (-20.1 percent)
3.) Kansas City, Mo. (-19.6 percent)
4.) Tampa, Fla. (-17.8 percent)
5.) Las Vegas (-17.2 percent)
“Mortgage rates are generally the same across the country, so a decline in mortgage rates boosts affordability equally in each market,” said Fleming. “Household income growth and nominal house prices, on the other hand, differ from market to market, so the affordability dynamic varies as well.
“In May, Phoenix had the greatest year-over-year decrease in affordability. While annual income growth was steady at 1.9 percent, Phoenix experienced the biggest annual increase in nominal house prices of any major market – 29.3 percent. The steep increase in nominal house prices overshadowed any affordability gains from increased house-buying power,” said Fleming. “A similar dynamic played out in Tampa as year-over-year nominal house price appreciation of 25.6 percent outpaced house-buying power.
“In Seattle and Las Vegas, house-buying power ticked up as the positive impact of falling mortgage rates offset a decline in household incomes. However, like Phoenix and Tampa, nominal house price growth in Seattle (20.7 percent) and Las Vegas (19.9 percent) overshadowed the house-buying power gains,” said Fleming. “Kansas City was the only one of the five markets where house-buying power declined, combining with faster house price appreciation to drive a decline in affordability.”
Where Are Nominal House Prices Headed?
“Declining affordability may cause potential home buyers on the margin to be priced out, prompting fewer or less intense bidding wars and causing house price appreciation to moderate. The increase in housing inventory may likewise ease pressure on nominal house price growth, though the increase remains small relative to historic levels and the broader housing supply shortage is likely to take years to reverse,” said Fleming. “Affordability trends in the coming months will depend on the supply and demand dynamics behind nominal house price appreciation – dynamics which will play out differently in each market.”
May 2021 Real House Price Index Highlights
- Real house prices increased 0.7 percent between April 2021 and May 2021.
- Real house prices increased 8.9 percent between May 2020 and May 2021.
- Consumer house-buying power, how much one can buy based on changes in income and interest rates, increased 1.4 percent between April 2021 and May 2021, and increased 8.4 percent year over year.
- Median household income has increased 4.7 percent since May 2020 and 78.0 percent since January 2000.
- Real house prices are 19.9 percent less expensive than in January 2000.
- While unadjusted house prices are now 30.1 percent above the housing boom peak in 2006, real, house-buying power-adjusted house prices remain 43.8 percent below their 2006 housing boom peak.
May 2021 Real House Price State Highlights
- The five states with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are: Arizona (+19.4 percent), Vermont (+17.0 percent), Washington (+16.6 percent), Nevada (+16.3 percent), and Connecticut (+15.4 percent).
- There were no states with a year-over-year decrease in the RHPI.
May 2021 Real House Price Local Market Highlights
- Among the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) tracked by First American, the five markets with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are: Phoenix (+22.7 percent), Seattle (+20.1 percent), Kansas City, Mo. (+19.6 percent), Tampa, Fla. (+17.8 percent), and Las Vegas (+17.2 percent).
- Among the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) tracked by First American, the only market with a year-over-year decrease in the RHPI is San Francisco (-0.1 percent).
The next release of the First American Real House Price Index will take place the week of August 30, 2021 for June 2021 data.
The methodology statement for the First American Real House Price Index is available at http://www.firstam.com/economics/real-house-price-index.
Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2021 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.
About First American
First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a leading provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions that traces its heritage back to 1889. First American also provides title plant management services; title and other real property records and images; valuation products and services; home warranty products; banking, trust and wealth management services; and other related products and services. With total revenue of $7.1 billion in 2020, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2021, First American was named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list for the sixth consecutive year. More information about the company can be found at www.firstam.com.