STANISLAUS COUNTY — Call it the flip side of the coin: As Stanislaus County's home prices have rebounded, affordability rates have plunged.
Just-released data show the availability of Stanislaus homes that are affordable to median-income families dropped to about 78 percent this spring.
Two years ago, by comparison, nearly 93 percent of the homes sold were within financial reach of the county's middle class.
But home prices have been soaring, up about $40,000 since last summer. That's great for homeowners but bad for home buyers.
That is apparent in the numbers released Tuesday morning by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. It analyzed the homes sold in April, May and June, calculating how many of them were affordable to families earning the median income in each county.
In Stanislaus County, that was 78.1 percent. The affordability rate was better in Merced County, 84 percent, and worse in San Joaquin County, 66.9 percent.
Nationwide, 69.3 percent of homes sold this spring were affordable for median-income families.
Northern San Joaquin Valley affordability rates were much worse during the region's housing boom. In 2005, when home prices were peaking, only 3 percent of those houses were within financial reach of typical Stanislaus County families.
Then the housing market crashed, the foreclosure crisis began and affordability rates soared to record levels, at least according to the index.
Stanislaus County's affordability level is back to about what it was in 2008. The county's median home sales price was $175,000 this spring, which is about what it was five years ago.
The index calculated Stanislaus County's median family income at $56,600, and that's also back to about what it was in 2008. Incomes in the county have dropped the past couple of years as the recession has lingered and unemployment has remained high. The national economy is in better shape.
"Rising home prices signal the improving health in housing markets, and the median price of all new and existing U.S. homes sold in this year's second quarter, at $202,000, was well ahead of the second quarter 2012 median price of $185,000," said David Crowe, the National Association of Home Builders' chief economist.
Prices jumped even more in some parts of America.
San Francisco and San Mateo counties continue to be the nation's least affordable places to buy homes. Average homes there sold for $781,000 this spring. So even though typical families there earn $101,200 a year, they could afford only 19.3 percent of the homes sold.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.