Maryland’s housing affordability falls in first quarter

An index that measures housing affordability for first-time homebuyers in Maryland fell from 71.9 percent at the end of last year to 70.6 percent for the first quarter of this year.

That means first-time homebuyers had only 70.6 percent of the income necessary to purchase a typical starter home, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors.

For the first quarter of 2016, the index stood at 76.8 percent.

The index factors in typical starter home prices, median family income, property taxes, mortgage rates and other statistics.

The association said the affordability index is calculated on a statewide basis and is not available on county or regional levels.

The starter home price fell more than $8,000, from $230,092 in the last quarter of 2016 to $221,818 for the first quarter of this year. But that was not enough to offset other factors.

“Any decrease, however slight, will impact first-time homebuyers in Maryland,” association President Shelly Murray said in a news release. “The drop in starter home prices was not enough to offset the decrease in affordability due to the rise in mortgage rates from 4.26 (percent) to 4.7 percent and a dip in median household income.”

The index has never reached 100 percent in the 12 years the association has calculated it, according to the news release.

Monthly fluctuations in affordability can be due to changes in interest rates, other terms of financing and home prices, the association reported.

Calculated on an annual basis, the index hit a three-year high last year:

• 2016: 71.7 percent

• 2015: 71.6 percent

• 2014: 66.4 percent