Even as home prices are rising in Whatcom County, homes are still more affordable than they have been in years.
Whatcom County's affordability index was 159.5 in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. That's the highest since the index started in 1994, and is up from 149 in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The affordability index measures the ability of a typical family to make payments on a median-price home.
With Whatcom's latest index number, a family earning the median income has 59.5 percent more income than the bare minimum required to qualify to buy a median-price home with a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year mortgage. Along with home sales price and income, interest rates are factored into the index.
Statewide, the housing affordability index was 177.2 last quarter. Skagit County had an index number of 183.7.
According to the survey, the median price for homes sold in Whatcom County in the first quarter was $245,600, up 5.5 percent from a year ago.