A median-priced home is more affordable than renting – if you can find one.

It’s more affordable to buy a median-priced Tri-Cities home than renting – if you can find one. Local potential buyers face the biggest affordability issue in seven years because the inventory of everything on the market is at an all-time low.

Rents and home prices in all of the local counties analyzed except Sullivan were rising faster than wages.

The economic assessment squares with the ATTOM Data Solution’s 2021 Rental Affordability Report. It shows owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting in 572 (63%) of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed.

“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in the majority of the country. Yet, homeownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check, “said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM. “It’s startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and homeownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it.”

ATTOM’s report is based on the 50th percentile average rental data for three-bedroom properties from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the second-quarter average weekly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the January-November year-to-date 2020 home price data from publicly recorded sales deed data in the counties in the analysis.

Rental affordability is the average fair market rent for a three-bedroom property as a percentage of the average monthly wages. Home buying affordability is the monthly house payment for a median-priced home based on a 3% down payment, including mortgage, property tax, homeowners’ insurance, and private mortgage insurance as a percentage of the average monthly wage.

Local counties included in the analysis were Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan, and Washington.  And rental affordability – just like ownership – varies from county to county. For instance: rents have posted double-digit increases in Carter and Washington while declining in Hawkins and Sullivan.

Washington and Carter are the least affordable rental markets in the region.

Rents in all of the counties except Sullivan were rising faster than wages. Home prices were increasing faster than wages in all the counties. It was cheaper to buy a median-priced home in all of the counties rather than renting. However, only about a third of the homes listed at the end of December were at or below the median-price level.

CARTER CO.

The average rent for a three-bedroom home – $1,040 – was up 11.1% from last year, and the rental affordability was 32.6%. That’s the least affordable rate among local counties. Renters or owners who spend more than 30% of the income on housing are classified as housing challenged.

Both rents and home prices are increasing faster than the annual wage growth of 5.6%, which is the second-highest wage growth rate for local counties in the analysis.

GREENE CO.

Greene County’s 28.7% affordability rate was the second-highest in the region. Rent for a three-bedroom property was $951, up 7.5%. Rents and home prices are increasing faster than wages, which declined by 0.5% during the analysis study period.

HAWKINS CO.

Hawkins Co. renters got a 4.3% break, according to the analysis. The three-bedroom property rent dropped to $920 a month from $961, and their rental affordability was 25.7%.  Home prices are increasing faster than rents, and both are increasing faster than the county wages, which declined 5.2% during the study period.

SULLIVAN CO.

Rent for a three-bedroom property 4.3% for $920. Home prices are increasing faster than rents. Its rental affordability status was 22.6% – the lowest of local counties in the analysis.

Sullivan is also the only county in the analysis where wages were rising faster than rents. The county’s wage was up 3.4% for the period analyzed.

Sullivan is one of the two local counties included in separate ATTOM analysis investor-owned single-family and condo properties’ vacancy rates. There were 29,131 investment properties in the county in that report, and the vacancy rate was 5.5%.

WASHINGTON CO.

Rent on a three-bedroom property was up 11. % to $1,040, according to ATTOM’s analysis. Rental affordability is 27%. Rents are increasing faster than home prices, and both are rising faster than the county 7.4% wage growth.

There were 20,101 single-family and condo investment properties in Washington Co. in Q4. The vacancy rate was 4.01%

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