By Gino Blefari
President & CEO
Intero Real Estate Services, Inc.

With the busiest home-buying season of the year upon us, we thought we’d do a roundup of interesting housing news from the week.
This time of year, it can be easy to stick our heads in the sand and move forward without stopping to get a bird’s eye view of the state of things. Here are some items that point to specific points of the housing spectrum that are worth keeping an eye on.
FHA program gives former homeowners chance to buy sooner

 Homeowners who lost their homes to a short sale or foreclosure typically are required to wait three years before being able to purchase a home again with a Federal Housing Administration loan. That number is more like seven years for a conventional loan, though it can vary with special documentation and circumstances.
But FHA’s Back to Work Program allows buyers to purchase a primary home much sooner – potentially as soon as 12 months after a short sale, foreclosure or deed in lieu of foreclosure.
To qualify, buyers will need to document the financial problem that caused their short sale or foreclosure, and show that that they’ve taken steps to re-establish income and credit.
The program is slated to run through September 30, 2016. Details are at the FHA website.
Cities where homeowners have the highest incomes

 The metro area of San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif., is home to some of the nation’s highest-earning homeowners, with median incomes at $115,297, according to a recentanalysis from the National Association of Home Builders.
To compare, the median household income of owner-occupied housing nationwide is $65,514.
The full list of top 10 metros where homeowners have the highest incomes includes:

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.: $115,297
  2. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.: $114,444
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C./Va./Md./W.Va.: $111,816
  4. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.: $110,663
  5. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Mass.: $105,786
  6. Bridgeport-Stanford-Norwalk, Conn.: $104,790
  7. Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.: $102,632
  8. Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, Calif.: $101,124
  9. Newark-Union, N.J./Pa.: $100,067
  10. Boulder, Colo.: $97,690

The builders group also notes that many of the metros with the highest homeowner incomes are also in metros that have some of the highest median home values. Makes sense.
Affordability drops from last year

 As home prices continue to rise in many markets and wages stay mostly stagnant, housing affordability has waned a bit compared to last year.
Housing affordability rose from January to February, according to NAR’s latest Housing Affordability Index, but it remains lower year-over-year. Affordability is calculated considering median home prices, family incomes and average mortgage interest rates.
The median single-family home price is $189,200, up 9% from a year ago. Mortgage rates are up a full percentage point from last year, and incomes have climbed only 1.9% in the past year.

 See why it’s important to check a lot of news to get a sense of the market? We’re reminded that even as the world becomes more global, housing remains very much tied to local economies and family-level situations. As one segment booms, another reaches for recovery. Overall, things are holding steady in 2014.