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BUFFALO'S STILL a great place for home buyers -- but look now because affordability is falling. Richmond, Va.-based MortgageWright Inc.'s 1990 home affordability index ranks the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area with 139.9 points, good enough for 58th place out of 97 cities surveyed.

This means a family with the area median income of $33,600 can still purchase a median priced single-family home costing $77,300 at an average interest rate of 10.39 percent.

MortgageWright's index is based on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, using a qualifying ratio of 28 percent of monthly gross income used for mortgage payments (principal, interest insurance and taxes) and a 20 percent down payment. An index of 100 means an area has the income level needed to qualify for mortgage on a house in the area's median price.

The area's affordability rating has dropped every year since 1987 as property values have outstripped income growth. In the years 1987-89, income grew 15.5 percent, while property values jumped 36.3 percent.

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