Housing Affordability is Historically Very High
A recent analysis by Trulia concluded that buying a home today is 45% cheaper on average compared to renting a comparable home, see CD post here. That post generated a lively discussion with about 100 comments, and some questioned some of Trulia's assumptions and analysis (or lack of some key assumptions), although I think the general conclusion is valid that buying a home is relatively affordable today compared to renting a similar home -whether it's 10%, 20%, 30% or 45% cheaper.
Another measure of housing affordability is to compare the median household income in the U.S. (or regions) to the qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home, and that analysis is reported monthly by the National Association of Realtors based on its Housing Affordability Index (HAI), see chart above.
In July, the Housing Affordability Index increased to 182.0 from 179.7 in June, but is down from historical highs for the HAI above 200 in the first three months of 2012. Looking back over the last thirty years, the July HAI of 182 is still very high by historical standards (see chart).
An HAI of 182.0 means that the typical American household earning the median annual family income of $61,080 in July would actually have 182% of the standard qualifying income level of $33,552 required to purchase a median-priced existing single-family house ($181,000) with a 20% down payment, financing the remaining 80% of the sales price with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at the July average of 3.78% (monthly payment of $699 for principal and interest). For the Midwest region of the country, the HAI in July of 219 means that the typical Midwest household income of $60,657 is more than twice the qualifying income ($27,696) necessary to purchase the median price home at $155,400.
Bottom Line: Whether comparing buying to renting a home, or comparing the median household income to the qualifying income necessary to purchase a home, homeownerhip today is extremely affordable. And that historically high affordability is one of the factors that will continue to support the housing recovery taking hold across the country right now.