The five most affordable major U.S. housing markets

Buyers still wondering if conditions finally are perfect for jumping into the housing market can look at five major U.S. metropolitan areas to get a resounding "yes" to that question.

Super-low interest rates -- a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.42% for the week ending Thursday (last year at this time it was 5.12%), according to Freddie Mac -- and home prices still languishing has made housing in several metro markets about as affordable as it ever will get, according to a just-released National Assn. of Home builders and Wells Fargo survey.

"Homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for almost a generation," says NAHB chairman Bob Jones.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index revealed that 72.3% of all new and existing homes sold in the quarter ending June 30 were affordable. Affordability is based on families earning the median income of $64,400, and those earning the median in their metro area spending no more than 28% of their income on housing. Until 2009, the index never had reached 70%.

So, where to drop anchor for the most affordable housing in the country? (all figures reflect the period ending June 30)

1.SYRACUSE, NY: The median price of a home was $88,000, with an affordability score of 97.2%., ranked this upstate New York city the nation's most affordable. The median income was $64,300. Unemployment there in June was 7.8%, well below the nation's average. The city is home to Syracuse University.
2. INDIANAPOLIS, IN: The median price was $113,000, with an affordability score of 94.3%. The median income was $68,700. The capital of Indiana, this metro area has a population of 7 million. It was bumped from first place for affordability for the first time in nearly five years.
3. DETROIT, MI: The median price was $85,000, with an affordability score of 93.8%.The median income was $55,900. With the auto industry rebounding, hope blazes that the 14% unemployment rate will drop. Still, Motor City is not a mecca for buyers, even with the low housing prices; the metro area population dropped 1.1% since 2000. But this is the city for bargains, especially if you're looking for a foreclosed property. It's easy to find a home priced at under $60,000.
4. YOUNGSTOWN, OH: The median price of a home was $74,000, with an affordability score of 93.3%. The median income was $53,500. With an unemployment rate of 11.9% in June, this once mighty hub of the steel industry has housing bargains galore. If you're young and starting out, it's easy to get a home with a monthly mortgage of $500.
5. BUFFALO, NY: If you like it cold in the winter, and inexpensive year-round, this is your city. The median price of a home was $112,000. The affordability score was 93.3%; the median income was $63,700. A population and industry hub until World War II, the city still offers stately homes and the State University of New York, Buffalo.

The nation's least-affordable housing market remains the New York metro area, where the median price of a home is $426,000, while the median income is $65,600. Only 19.9% all homes sold were affordable. If you have to ask...
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