Historically low mortgage rates haven’t been enough to offset Los Angeles’ escalating home prices, and affordability has taken a hit as a result.
According to a new report from the California Association of Realtors, only 25 percent of Los Angeles households could afford to purchase the $682,360 median-priced, existing single-family home during the first quarter of 2021.
Compared to the same period last year, affordability declined by six percentage points, although the latest reading marked a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2020 when only 24 percent of Angelenos could cover the costs of homeownership.
A minimum annual income of $124,400 per year was required to make the $3,110 monthly payment, including principal, interest and taxes, on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a 3.08 percent interest rate. This is assuming a 20 percent down payment, a benchmark that remains out of reach for many first-time homebuyers.
Affordability fell in all Southern California counties on an annual basis. Orange County was the least affordable at 20 percent, while San Bernardino County was the most affordable at 45 percent.
Statewide, the number of households who could afford to purchase a single-family home dropped to 27 percent in the first quarter of 2021, unchanged from the previous quarter, but down from 35 percent in the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2020. At a median price of $720,490, Californians needed an annual income of $131,200 to manage the $3,280 monthly mortgage payments.
Condominiums and townhomes across California also experienced worsening affordability, with 40 percent of households able to afford the $535,000 median-priced unit. That figure fell from 44 percent one year ago and 41 percent during the fourth quarter of 2020. To make the $2,440 monthly mortgage payments, an annual income of $97,600 was required.
It’s perhaps no surprise that California has one of the least affordable housing markets in the country. More than half of households nationwide (54 percent) could afford the $319,200 median-priced single-family home in 2021’s first quarter, however, affordability fell by 5 percent year-over-year. An annual income of $58,000 was needed to float the $1,450 monthly mortgage payments.
Rising lumber prices and anticipated mortgage rate hikes could exacerbate affordability woes in the near future. Increasing the housing stock is necessary to put homeownership within reach for more California families.