LOS ANGELES — The number of California households able to afford their own home increased in December to 34 percent, up from 32 percent a year ago, an industry study released Friday said.
The improvement was driven by low mortgage interest rates, which continued to offset rising property values in December as they had throughout the year, the California Association of Realtors said.
The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California rose 13.8 percent to $276,940 in December, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to CAR’s report.
At the same time, the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage declined to 7.28 percent in December, from 7.58 percent a year ago, according to HSH Associates, a publisher of consumer loan information.
During all of 2001, 33 percent of California households could afford to own their own homes, up from 32 percent in 2000, according to the CAR report.
But the improved annual state numbers mask a widening gap between what Californians can afford compared to the rest of the country.
Nationwide, more than half, or 57 percent of American households, could afford to buy their own home in 2001, up from 55 percent in 2000, CAR reported.
Regionally, Merced, Fresno and Stanislaus remained among the most affordable counties in the state, where 59 percent, 52 percent and 46 percent of households, respectively, could afford to own.
The San Francisco Bay Area, meanwhile, remained one of the most exclusive home markets in California. Still, the region showed a significant increase in the number of residents who could afford to own housing during the year.
In San Francisco County, where the technology bust has cooled the once red-hot property market, only 15 percent of households could afford to own in December, up from just 10 percent a year earlier, CAR’s numbers show.
Percentage of households in various counties that could afford to buy a medium-priced home in December 2001,
along with comparison figures for December 2000:
• Alameda, 25 percent, 18 percent.
• Contra Costa, 18 percent, 14 percent.
• San Francisco, 15 percent, 10 percent.
• San Mateo, 20 percent, 14 percent.
• Fresno, 52 percent, 54 percent.
• San Joaquin, 37 percent, 39 percent.
• Stanislaus, 46 percent, 45 percent.
Source: California Association of Realtors