West Va. boasts lowest housing costs in the US

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginians pay the lowest housing costs in the country, but they also don't make a lot of money.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the median monthly housing cost in the Mountain State was $881 in 2007, compared to the national median of $1,464.
Last year, the state's median income was $40,800.
By comparison, Californians earned median incomes of $56,311, but paid nearly

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginians pay the lowest housing costs in the country, but they also don't make a lot of money.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the median monthly housing cost in the Mountain State was $881 in 2007, compared to the national median of $1,464.

Last year, the state's median income was $40,800.

By comparison, Californians earned median incomes of $56,311, but paid nearly three times as much as West Virginians paid for housing. At $2,314 a month, Californians paid more than any other state.

"West Virginia is a good buy compared to a lot of areas of the country" and has been for years, said Randy Childs, assistant professor at West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

While they pay less, though, their homes are also worth less.

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West Virginia tied Mississippi for the lowest median home value, at $96,000, while Hawaii had the highest, at $555,400. The national estimate was $194,300.

Nearly 80 percent of the state's 1.8 million residents also own their homes compared to 66 percent nationally.

"West Virginians don't tend to buy more house than they can afford," said Joe Hatfield, executive director of the state Housing Development Fund. "We also treasure owning land, and that's not a bad trait."

Childs said land has always been relatively cheap across the state. Its older housing stock - the median age of a home is 59 years- and the number of manufactured and mobile homes help drive down the numbers, too.

Both new-home construction and the state's population have remained relatively flat over the years. At 0.6 percent, the state ranked 44th in housing unit growth between 2000 and 2007, Childs said.

"The ones who are staying around may have been in their homes longer with lower mortgages or mortgages that have been paid off," he said.

While West Virginia's housing market has been relatively immune to the boom and bust of the housing market, Hatfield said that means state residents have been largely untouched by the ongoing mortgage crisis.

According to Mortgage Bankers' Association's National Delinquency Survey, less than one percent of all mortgaged homes in West Virginia were sold in foreclosure proceedings last year.

In that sense, Hatfield said, "We are very fortunate."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.





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