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U.S. housing prices are rising much faster than wages, an alarming sign of future affordability problems. According to a report by RealtyTrac, the average worker typically spent about 30.2% of his or her paycheck on the combined mortgages, property taxes, and insurance premiums on a median-price home costing $199,000, which is way more than the widely accepted 28% rule. staffer Clare Trapasso speaks to experts in the housing industry to explore the issue. Trapasso writes,

"We’re heading in a direction where people are no longer going to be able to afford homes,” says RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist. “The fear: Is this heading in the direction of a housing bubble?”

The numbers are also a big jump from early 2012 when workers plunked down only about 22.2% of their earnings on their new homes. But it’s a significant drop from the titanic 53.2% that homeowners spent at the peak of the pre-collapse real estate market in 2006.

Lower interest rates on mortgages have kept home buying still reasonably affordable. But if those rates, along with home prices, continue to rise—while wages don’t—Blomquist worries only the super wealthy will be able to afford to become homeowners. Or prices could plateau or even plummet. The worst-hit area tracked by the study: Denver. Buyers in that fast-growing city saw the biggest hikes in the percentage of their wages they shelled out to purchase a new home compared with what buyers had paid in the past.

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