Friday, February 16, 2024

Can Two Minimum Wage Earners buy a 3 bedroom Home in Vancouver USA?

Well that's a loaded question? Although our market is not yet officially a neutral market we do have significantly more inventory than we did 18 months ago. Interest rates remain mostly in the low 7s right now for government backed loans. Rates have been a bit volatile this year so far and clever lenders can get locks near 7 flat at times. Let's use a 7% FHA loan as our example and see if two minimum wage earners can in fact buy a home in one of America's most expensive housing markets. Washington State ranks third behind California and Massachusetts for median home price. Vancouver is about 15% below the statewide median making us relatively affordable. Vancouver however is well above the national median of $392,000. 

Well I intend to answer the title query with some local facts and available homes as of writing this post. As of January 1st, 2024 Washington State's minimum wage is $16.28 per hour. At this wage two full time earners will bring in $5500 a month income. Now credit is always a concern and in our market an income of $5500 a month is going to need some credit help. A 720 or better score for both borrowers. Also a low amount of debt. People earning minimum wage cannot expect to have a brand new car payment and still qualify for a mortgage. Some patience will be in order as well since a 7% interest rate will need to be locked as soon as it appears or rates could swing back the other way and become unfavorable. 

Let's look at borrower(s) A: Two earners at $16.28 full time $5500 per month, 720+ scores, < $150 in monthly credit debt, and 15,000 in the bank. At $320,000 buyer brings in $11,200 down, will likely have $8,000 in closing costs that we will ask the seller to pay. Keep in mind that the FHA will allow gift funds for the downpayment from an immediate relative. With a total PITI payment of $2660, this is a doable transaction even if there is a small < $100 HOA fee. Yay!

3 beds, 2.5 baths, 1378 SF listed at $340,000
OK great, can I find a house that is clean enough to qualify for FHA financing at this price point in Vancouver USA? After a short research period, the immediate answer is "No." The closest I got was an end unit townhouse with a small but usable backyard and priced at $340,000 with $250 in dues. So how much more income does our borrower(s) need to qualify for this home? About $1000 more. The dues for the HOA are killing us here. I have seen townhouses in this price range with HOA dues under $100 but there just weren't any listed right now. If I found such a place then the extra income required would be $800. Still that is difficult to overcome. 

3 beds, 2.5 baths, 1368 SF listed at $420,000
What does that look like then? Well if our two earners made $20 an hour then no problem. Here is where the issue is. That $250 HOA fee is worth $38,000 in purchasing power. So our buyer could look at detached homes with no HOA and pay $378,000. In fact at $20 and hour they could qualify for about $430,000 so long as they keep their other debt service under $200. Well the house on the left is currently listed for $420,000 and it is in good shape, easily financeable as is, and offers 3 beds, 2.5 baths and 1368 SF.

Now looking at the median wage in Vancouver shows a different story. The median wage is $25.17 per hour or more accurately $52,363 annually. Median means half of the people make more and half make less. So two people making the median can buy these homes. In fact two people making the median can look at homes with payments at around $4000 a month. That will buy a $485,000 house which is pretty close to the median in Vancouver, maybe a touch lower depending on the data source. 

We may have gotten a little spoiled back a few years ago when rates were in the 2's and 3's. Two minimum wage earners could if fact buy a modest three bedroom house. But with rates now closer to the 50 year average it takes a little more than two minimum wage jobs to buy a house. The good news is that incomes have been rising locally and means more people will qualify soon. When rates relax a bit and settle into the high 5's of low 6's we may see two minimum wager earners once again qualify for an entry level home. 

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