Keeping Track: affordable real estate

Midwest is best for median-income families

Pining for property in Illinois, Indiana, or Iowa?

The six most-affordable metropolitan areas in the US can be found in those three states, according to the National Association of Home Builders, whose Housing Opportunity Index (see chart below) cites the percentage of new and existing homes sold that a family earning the median US income could afford.

The average US home cost $151,000 in the fourth quarter of 2000, the period studied, and the average income was $50,200. Yet while neither of those figures marked a change from the third quarter, there was an increase in the overall percentage of affordable US homes - from 58.1 percent to 59.3 percent - because of falling mortgage interest rates.

Nine of the 10 least-affordable areas were in California. (For a complete list, go to

Home buyers who throw affordability to the wind and hit San Jose, in California's Silicon Valley, will find market values there have jumped 101 percent since 1995 (to $860,100 for a four-bedroom, 2.5-bath home), according to Runzheimer International, the Rochester, Wis.-based management consulting firm.

That same home in Boston jumped 46.8 percent, to $359,400, Runzheimer reports. Swings in the other direction? Towanda, Pa., showed a 16.8 percent drop over those six years, to $103,600. Port Arthur, Texas, was down 14.1 percent, to $83,600.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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