Once again, mortgage rates have declined into the all-time record low territory. The benchmark 30- year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.88%, which is only 0.01 percentage point off the previous record reached in January. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is also at its lowest point in six decades, with an average rate of 3.13%. This is just one basis point off the all-time low of 3.14% reached last month.
According to Frank Nothaft, the chief economist at the federal agency Freddie Mac, record low interest rates have made housing even more affordable when combined with falling home values. Nothaft states, as of January 2012, the average American family has two-times the monthly household income needed to buy a home priced in the median price range.
Housing Affordability Indexes Hit Record Levels
The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) supports Nothaft statement. The index shows that families earning the median income for a family of $64,200 could afford to buy 75.9 percent of all new and existing residential homes sold in the last quarter of 2011.
In addition, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Housing Affordability Index climbed to 206.1. Since the NAR begin tracking the index in 1970, this is the first time it has touched or exceeded the 200 benchmark. The NAR computes its affordability index based on three pieces of data: median home price, median family income and the average mortgage interest rate.
A level of “100” indicates the precise point at which a family can afford to make a 20 percent down payment and pay no more than 25 percent of its gross monthly income to buy a home.