Business Blog

Whatcom home affordability improves slightly in fourth quarter

With a slight dip in the median home price, Whatcom County's affordability index improved between the third and fourth quarter of 2013.

This area's housing affordability index was 131.8 in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to a new report from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.

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 31.8 percent more than the bare minimum required to qualify for 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.

According to the report, the median price for homes sold in the fourth quarter locally was $270,500 in the fourth quarter, down from $272,400 in the third quarter.

Whatcom's peak for this 20-year index was in the first quarter of 2013, at 159.2. During the housing bubble, Whatcom's affordability index dropped into the low 80s.

The housing affordability index was also up slightly across the state in the fourth quarter, to 149.4.

"Washington's housing market is finding its balance," said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the Runstad center in a news release. "Sales throughout 2013 totaled 93,730 units, well above any of the last five years, but still well below the pre-recession frenzy."