More Californians could afford to purchase a home in the third quarter as flat home prices and stable interest rates combined to improve California housing affordability, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said today.

The percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in third-quarter 2018 edged up to 27% from 26% in the second quarter of 2018 and was down from 28% in the third quarter a year ago, according to C.A.R.'s Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI). The index has been below 30% for five of the past eight quarters. California's housing affordability index hit a peak of 56% in the first quarter of 2012.

C.A.R.'s HAI measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California. C.A.R. also reports affordability indices for regions and select counties within the state. The index is considered the most fundamental measure of housing well-being for home buyers in the state.

A minimum annual income of $125,540 was needed to qualify for the purchase of a $588,530 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the third quarter of 2018. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $3,140, assuming a 20% down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.77%. The effective composite interest rate in second-quarter 2018 was 4.7% and 4.16% in the third quarter of 2017.

Conversely, housing affordability for condominiums and townhomes fell in third-quarter 2018 compared to the previous quarter with 35% of California households earning the minimum income to qualify for the purchase of a $479,390 median-priced condominium/townhome, down from 36% in the second quarter. An annual income of $102,260 was required to make monthly payments of $2,560.

Compared with California, more than half of the nation's households (53%) could afford to purchase a $266,900median-priced home, which required a minimum annual income of $56,930 to make monthly payments of $1,420.

Key points from the third-quarter 2018 Housing Affordability report include:

  • Housing affordability improved from third-quarter 2017 in 10 tracked counties and declined in 33 counties. Affordability in five counties remained flat.
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, affordability improved from a year ago in San Francisco and Marin counties, primarily due to higher wages. Affordability fell in six counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma). Affordability held steady in Santa Clara County.
  • In Southern California, affordability improved only in Ventura, and dropped in four counties (Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego) compared to a year ago. Affordability in Los Angeles County was unchanged.
  • In the Central Valley, Fresno and Madera counties saw an improvement in affordability from third-quarter 2017. Housing affordability decreased from a year ago in eight counties (Kings, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare). Affordability held steady only in Kern County.
  • In the Central Coast region, only Santa Barbara experienced a year-to-year improvement in affordability, while three counties (Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz) posted a decline.
  • During the third quarter of 2018, the most affordable counties in California were Lassen (67%), Kern and Kings (51%), Tehama (49%) and Yuba (48%).
  • Mono (11%), Santa Cruz (12%), San Mateo (14%), San Francisco (15%), and Santa Clara (17%) counties were the least affordable areas in the state.