US Real Estate Report: Mortgage Payments for Middle-Class Segment Becoming Increasingly Unaffordable

To comfortably afford a typical U.S. home, a home buyer making the median income needs to put down nearly $127,750, or 35.4%, a Zillow (Nasdaq: Z and ZG) analysis of the real estate market shows.

Five years ago, when mortgage rates were “hovering just above 4% and the typical home was worth about 50% less, that home would have been affordable with no money down,” the update from Zillow noted.

The real estate update pointed out that the $127,750 down payment is what a household “making the median income would need to put down when purchasing a typical U.S. home — valued at about $360,000 — so that the monthly mortgage payments take up no more than 30% of that household’s monthly income.”

The enormous gap between the down payment “needed now and five years ago underscores how the pandemic fueled a scorching-hot housing market, and why the rise in mortgage rates in the time since has cooled the market.”

According to the US real estate market update, “stubbornly high mortgage rates have pushed both buyers and sellers to the sidelines.”

With so few homes for sale, competition is stiff among the remaining buyers.

Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Zillow said:

“Down payments have always been important, but even more so today. With so few available, buyers may have to wait even longer for the right home to hit the market, especially now that buyers can afford less. Mortgage rate movements during that time could make the difference between affording that home and not. Saving enough is a tall task without outside help — a gift from family or perhaps a stock windfall. To make the finances work, some folks are making a big move across the country, co-buying or buying a home with an extra room to rent out. Down payment assistance is another great resource that is too often overlooked.”

To save up $127,750, it would take “a household making the median income about 12 years (assuming its members save 10% of their income each month with a 4% annual return).”

It’s no wonder then “that 43% of last year’s buyers used a gift from family or friends for at least part of their down payment, the highest share since at least 2018.”

There are still affordable pockets of the U.S.

In 10 major metropolitan areas, the typical home is “affordable to a median-income household with less than 20% down.”

Pittsburgh boasts the most affordable housing market. A median-income household there could “afford the monthly payments on a typical home even with no money down.”

California is on the other end of the affordability spectrum.

A median-income household in San Jose “would need to put down more than $1.3 million to afford the mortgage payments on a typical home — that’s more than the typical home is worth in every other major market.”

In Los Angeles, a median-income household “would need an 81.1% down payment ($780,203) to afford the typical home, the highest in the country.”

This helps explain why many California metros “have seen population losses since 2020, as long-distance movers target areas with more affordable housing.”

For those who qualify, down payment assistance “can amplify savings and help a buyer enter homeownership more quickly.”

In Minneapolis, for example, the average amount of down payment assistance “available across the metro is just under $22,750, according to data from Down Payment Resource.”

A median-income buyer in Minneapolis “without down payment assistance would need a 27% down payment to comfortably afford the typical home. With $22,750 in down payment assistance, they would need to put 21% down.”

Down Payment Resource Founder and CEO Rob Chrane said:

“Homeownership is the primary source of net worth and generational wealth for most Americans, and declining affordability is making it harder for average earners to get their foot in the door of an entry-level home. Luckily, there are more than 2,373 down payment assistance programs nationwide with at least one program in every county and 10 or more programs available in 2,000 counties. In fact, down payment assistance providers have responded to the difficult housing market by increasing the number of programs offered and expanding inventory options with support for manufactured homes and owner-occupied multi-unit homes.”

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