Denver Has Worst Home Affordability of Any Big County in America

One of the residences highlighted in our recent slideshow "Real Estate Porn: Inside Ten Homes for Sale in Denver."
One of the residences highlighted in our recent slideshow "Real Estate Porn: Inside Ten Homes for Sale in Denver." Courtesy of Preferred Properties Inc.
According to a new report, Denver has the worst home affordability relative to long-term averages of any large county in the United States.

Moreover, two other counties in the metro area, Arapahoe and Jefferson, are also among America's bottom five.

The distressing news is included in the latest report from ATTOM Data Solutions, and it's part of a national trend — although Denver is an extreme example.

The study, which compares figures from the third quarter of 2018 to those from previous years, finds that home affordability nationwide is at its lowest level in a decade, as measured by an index based on the percentage of income an individual must pay to buy a median-priced home. On this scale, a score of 100 or more indicates that homes in a particular county are more affordable as compared to the historic average. Under 100 means they're less affordable.

The current home U.S. home-affordability digits are below this threshold: 92, down from 95 in the second quarter of 2018. That's the worst figure since the third quarter of 2008, when the index score was 87.

ATTOM provided Westword with data on all 440 counties analyzed by the firm, including eleven in Colorado. And the situation in the state is clearly deteriorating.

During the first quarter of 2018, ATTOM calculated that the average Coloradan couldn't afford the average house in ten of the eleven counties that were examined, with only Pueblo County avoiding a negative ranking. Six months later, Pueblo's figures have slipped, and even Mesa County, which has the best index score of the Colorado places in the study, is below the national average, racking up a 91.

In the metro area, the situation is considerably more distressing. Of the 128 counties in the ATTOM report with a population of 500,000 or more, Denver's score was the lowest, at 70, with Arapahoe County and Jefferson County racking up a 73 and a 75, respectively. That puts them among the five least affordable big counties in the U.S.A. alongside Tarrant County, Texas, and Kent County, Michigan, which both came in at 74.

To be clear, this ranking doesn't mean Denver has the most expensive homes in the country; rather, it shows that homes here are more difficult for the average resident to purchase. Historically, a median-priced home cost the average Denverite 33.4 percent of her or his salary. Now, it's 47.9 percent — and in five Colorado counties, folks must pay more than half their salary in this scenario.

Continue to get information about all eleven Colorado counties, ranked from best to worst affordability index scores. The information includes percentage changes in affordability, the current median sales price in each county, the annual income needed to buy an average home, whether prices are outpacing annualized wages, if an average wage earner can qualify to make such a purchase and more. In eleven of eleven cases, the answer is no.

By the way, the acronym DTI stands for "debt-to-income ratio."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts