State

Stanislaus County leads state in home affordability

Home affordability has hit a record high in Stanislaus County.

Just-released statistics show Stanislaus’s median-income families could afford to buy 83.5 percent of the homes sold during the first three months of this year.

That’s the highest affordability rate in California and the highest in Stanislaus’ history.

It’s a remarkable turnaround since 2005, the height of the building boom, when just 3 percent of homes were affordable to Stanislaus’ median-income families.

Merced and San Joaquin counties also set records for affordability this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index released Monday.

Merced hit 81 percent. San Joaquin reached 80.3 percent.

The national average is 72.5 percent. The index has been calculating affordability rates since 1991.

The Northern San Joaquin Valley now is among the most affordable places in America for homeownership. The opposite was true from 2004 through 2006, when the three counties routinely ranked among the nation’s least affordable.

Home prices have plummeted since then, however, primarily because foreclosure rates have soared. In Stanislaus, for instance, prices dropped 66 percent, from a median $396,000 in December 2005 to $135,000 this March.

The crash in home prices has created a buying frenzy for first-time homeowners. They’re able to tap near record-low mortgage interest rates, federal and state income tax credits, and assorted down-payment assistance grants to make buying even more attractive.

More than 700 potential homebuyers attended Homeownership Modesto on Sunday, a free event at Modesto Centre Plaza where various government and private agencies explained all the programs available to help families buy.

About 350 people completed an intensive four-hour homeownership training program offered Sunday, and hundreds of others visited dozens of informational booths and a series of workshops.

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