“Affordable” home price shot up 33% in less than two years

Reminder: Subscribers have access to the members-only spreadsheets folder, which is updated with the charts in this post.

As promised last week, here’s an updated look at the “affordable home” price chart.

In this graph I flip the variables in the affordability index calculation around to other sides of the equation to calculate what price home the a family earning the median household income could “afford” to buy at today’s mortgage rates, if they spent 30% of their monthly gross income on their home payment. Don’t forget that this math includes the (giant) assumption that the home buyers are putting 20% down, which would be $148,590 at today’s median price.

King Co. Actual & "Affordable" Home Prices

The “affordable” home price has shot up from $530,359 in November 2018 to an all-time high of $706,800 as of August. The current “affordable” home price in King County would have a monthly payment of $2,365.

The current gap of $36,150 between the affordable price and the median price is similar to the difference we saw between the two numbers in mid-2005.

If interest rates were at a more reasonable level of 6 percent (which is still quite low by historical standards), the “affordable” home price would be just $493,215—more than $200,000 below where it is today, and nearly $250,000 below the current median price.

Here’s the alternate view on this data, where I flip the numbers around to calculate the household income required to make the median-priced home affordable at today’s mortgage rates, and compare that to actual median household incomes.

King Co. Home Price, Income Req. to Afford

As of August, a household would need to earn $99,466 a year to be able to “afford” the median-priced $742,950 home in King County. This is up from the low of $46,450 in February 2012, but down slightly from the May 2018 high of $119,004. The previous cycle high in July 2007 was $99,321. Meanwhile, the actual median household income in King County is estimated to be about $94,500.

If interest rates were 6% (around the pre-bust level), the income necessary to buy a median-priced home would be $142,540—51 percent above the current median income.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    homelessinseattle says:

    Thanks for this data. What advice would you give to a young person with median income trying to buy their first home in the Seattle area on an FHA loan? Buy? Wait? Move?

    I don’t have $150K to put down 20%, and Seattle home price trends have greatly outpaced my income in the last 3-5 years. Which means I am actually saving less each year, as I need to devote more income to rent hikes.

  2. 2
    Blurtman says:

    Hey, but there is no inflation, heh, heh.

    And now we see how the Fed causes homelessness.

  3. 3
    IsErikRichYet says:

    Spoiler alert: the people making median income won’t have a 150k down payment. Lenders should have tightened their requirements in the last few months, but honestly, who knows?

  4. 4
    TJ_98370 says:

    Why the Hoped-for Solution to Out-of-Control Government Debts Won’t Work This Time

    Interesting comments about inflation as related to current world economy –

    “….What consumer price inflation does in today’s developed economies is destroy the purchasing power of the currency, and thereby the purchasing power of already struggling labor paid in that currency, and thereby dent consumption and create more social frustrations and inequities, that would then be addressed with even more borrowing and printing and inflation?…”

  5. 5
    Eastsider says:

    RE: homelessinseattle @ 1 – Rent has stayed pretty flat in the past 5 years. According to Zumper, 2BR rent has decreased by 8% YoY.


  6. 6
    Eastsider says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 2 – Check out the stat for homeless population. Between 2007 and 2019, the number of homeless people has decreased by 12.2% in the US.


  7. 7
    ruxpert says:

    Home Prices Will Drop In 2020-21 + The Data To Prove It!


    “Will the forest fires 🔥 and smoke end…
    …the hot real estate market?

    Here is the September Wenatchee Valley Real Estate Market Update.
    Keep watching to hear predictions on how and why prices will change
    after the election.”
    (remote-workspace, migration, etc …)
    Wenatchee Valley September 2020 Real Estate Market Update

  8. 8
    ruxpert says:

    COVID Financial Pain ‘Much, Much Worse’ Than Expected, Warns Harvard Study

  9. 9
    Milton McKenzie says:

    RE: ruxpert @ 7 – You’re quoting Zero Hedge as a reputable source?

  10. 10
    mountainfamily says:

    By homelessinseattle @ 1:

    Thanks for this data. What advice would you give to a young person with median income trying to buy their first home in the Seattle area on an FHA loan? Buy? Wait? Move?

    I don’t have $150K to put down 20%, and Seattle home price trends have greatly outpaced my income in the last 3-5 years. Which means I am actually saving less each year, as I need to devote more income to rent hikes.

    Change jobs, or move away? Not trying to be sarcastic or unsupportive here–we were chasing the bottom of the market for years and barely scraping by. We decided to adapt to the costs by getting jobs that paid enough to live here. One of us changed fields a bit to a higher paying one (tech), and the other of us grew a business more aggressively and specialized it in order to charge premium prices. I know it’s easier said than done, but you CAN choose to move elsewhere. We’ve certainly considered it but have opted to stay every time, since we’re motivated about our careers and want to live in the PNW. Why do you want to stay in Seattle?

  11. 11
    ruxpert says:

    RE: Milton McKenzie @ 9

    NPR Poll: Financial Pain From Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Much, Much Worse’ Than Expected
    September 9, 20205:00 AM ET

  12. 12
    ruxpert says:

    Federal Court Rules Pennsylvania’s Lockdown Order Unconstitutional
    Christian Britschgi | 9.14.2020

  13. 13
  14. 14
    SnP says:

    RE: homelessinseattle @ 1

    I feel for you, if we did not have a double income we would not have had a down payment for a house. We were able to put down 15% (our PMI rate was $30 a month), but we had saved our down payment by living in a DUMP apartment, and living off one income. It took a year and a half and then it took us another year and a half of waiting for the right house. We ended up north by 4 miles of where we envisioned living, but we don’t feel like we missed out in the 3 years we waited because we have a mortgage payment we can afford, and never went over budget. We also were able to save a 6 month emergency fund, and do improvements to our house right away.

    Renting is not throwing away money if you are able to put money into savings, and spend less than you would on a house because the bigger the mortgage the more interest (rent) you pay to the bank.

    The only thing we missed was putting some of our savings into an index fund instead of having it sit in savings account for years. It would have had far better returns.

  15. 15

    Great Insights and Differing Opinions Bubbbleheads, Its Still a Debate Though; Is it Pollution SMOKE or Just Hazy Fog In the Future…the Tooth Fairy Knows…tip your mugs and read the brief:

    In the Washington Post today:


    Long URL, great story on Boeing Seattle 737 MAX.

    “…“The facts laid out in this report document a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing,” investigators concluded. “It also illuminates numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA that played a significant role in the 737 MAX crashes.”

    Investigators said Boeing had “multiple missed opportunities” that could have shifted “the trajectory of the Max’s design and development toward a safer course.” The FAA had a series of its own missed opportunities, the report concluded.

    [FAA proposes $1.25 million fine for Boeing, alleging managers pressured employees to rush inspections]

    The two crashes are “clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired,” investigators concluded…”

    SWE’s Take: So much for that alleged Seattle Times story that the FAA is about to certify the MAX soon….Tooth Fairy News IOWs. You’ve read the recent Seattle Times Take on the MAX, its almost diametrically opposite to this Post article…LOL

    “….The Big Ten reversed course this morning and announced it will play college football starting next month, with a new look. And could Pac-12 football be saved this season by rapid-response COVID-19 tests, with near daily testing?…”

    SWE’s take: Does that mean the PAC-12 needs to play too? Time will tell. Go Huskies!

    “…Hurricane Sally, packing 105 mph winds, made landfall in Alabama this morning and triggered flash floods within hours. Find updates here as even NOAA’s hurricane hunters work from their kitchen tables and bedrooms…”

    SWE’s Take: We all hope Erik and his family are safe…

    “…By refusing to participate in a multinational alliance working on ways to share and distribute vaccines to those most in need, the U.S. is not only being selfish, it’s creating a leadership void that may be filled by rivals, writes The Seattle Times editorial board. ..”

    SWE’s take: If ya want to share in our medical research for a Killer Flu vaccine, help pay for it too. Why stick the Americn tax payer with ALL the globalists bills?

    Good News: Erik may have Hurricane Sally to worry about but doesn’t have SMOKE air pollution to breath, about equal to 9 cigarrettes/day today they say…I wear my flu mask for that reason mainly alone…the contractor crew is building a new fence around my house today…the new fence designs include much more wood and nails than old designs, they look much nicer now too ;-)

  16. 16
    HTX says:

    By homelessinseattle @ 1:

    Thanks for this data. What advice would you give to a young person with median income trying to buy their first home in the Seattle area on an FHA loan? Buy? Wait? Move?

    I don’t have $150K to put down 20%, and Seattle home price trends have greatly outpaced my income in the last 3-5 years. Which means I am actually saving less each year, as I need to devote more income to rent hikes.

    I really enjoy reading from this site and all the comments shared by all the readers. Over the last couple of years, I’ve definitely felt the pain from some folks on here who would like to be homeowners. Allow me to share what we’ve done and perhaps it may aid (you) in determining your next course of action:
    – I used to live in Issaquah, my husband is from New England. Our jobs had taken us to Houston. We bought our first townhouse for $250K downtown Houston in 2011. We were in our 20s. We sold it for $350K in 2017. Bought a house in a great neighborhood in the burbs for $290K, put in $160k for reno and a pool. Are we going to recoup this money? – given the appreciation in Houston ? Probably not in the next 5 years. However, my husband has a 10-minute-commute and we live on the water. We are in a great school district and we have our own police department. SWE – I concur with your previous comments regarding great NASA engineers who left when the shuttle program ended in 2011. My husband was one of them. Our neighborhood is dubbed the neighborhood of the “moonwalkers”.
    – I had an offer from an organization in Seattle in late 2016, we were living in Boulder, CO at that time. The offer was $30K more than my then salary, but it made no sense to move from an expensive city, to a more expensive city. That was when I took another position and we moved back to Houston. I am in healthcare. If anyone is in healthcare, I highly encourage you to look in Houston as the pay is extremely competitive compared to similar occupations in the high cost cities.
    – We are in our 30s and we are looking for a second home on the east side of Seattle.
    – I have 11 folks on my team and half of them are from CA. I’ve seen more California and Washington plates in the last 2 years than the last decade combined.

    I’m not advocating for Houston (I cannot stand the heat and humidity!), just advocating what makes sense for a young person, financially. I recall reading a comment on here months ago that “living in an expensive city in one’s 20s and 30s is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make”. Forgive me, I’m sure I’m not quoting it in his/her exact words.

    Moving away from Seattle was challenging but it made sense for me as a woman in my 20s. Oh… and dating was soooooo much easier in the South!

  17. 17
    Whatsmyname says:

    RE: homelessinseattle @ 1 – I understand your frustration, but, honest question, why are you scaling yourself to the median? Did you expect the median Seattle salary when you got your first job?

    I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but in terms of sheer numbers I think the median buyer is a move up buyer. Tim, you’re still quite young, but you’ve owned for a few years now. If you were to sell your house in anticipation of getting a new one, would $148K be an unattainable down payment for the next one?

  18. 18
    TJ_98370 says:

    Covid-19 Has Created a Condo Conundrum in Downtown Seattle
    “For months now, Seattle home shoppers have had to weather an unrelenting seller’s market. After a torrid July, home prices climbed even higher in August, and inventory remained astonishingly low amid the coronavirus pandemic. This scarcity was felt across the Puget Sound region, where buyers had to do “some pretty illogical things”—waiving inspections, paying way above asking—to close on a property, according to Frank Wilson, the Kitsap regional manager and branch managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo. “These are counterintuitive to what we used to see with a negotiation process.”
    But there’s one sector of our local real estate market where home browsers can still avoid crushing competition: downtown condos. Though the pandemic has cleared out many offices, developers have pressed on with projects rising from the city’s core, adding to its condo supply at a time when few are willing to make the move downtown. The resulting inventory numbers are jarring: While it would take about one month to unload every single-family house on the market in Seattle at August’s rate of sales, accomplishing the same for every downtown and Belltown condo would require a whopping nine-month slog, per Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s August breakdown. In March, that number was under three. “I’ve gotten more inquiries about, ‘Can you sell my downtown Seattle condo for x?’ than we’ve gotten in a long time,” says Lindsey Gudger, the owner of Georgetown-based Every Door Real Estate. “And unfortunately, the answer for a lot of those people is, based on market data, ‘No, we cannot.’”……”

  19. 19
    Justsomedude12 says:

    RE: TJ_98370 @ 18 – In keeping with your agenda, I noticed you cherry picked the part you like, and left out:

    “Demand may be starting to return. Nasvik points to an uptick in transactions during the past several weeks, including significant interest from tech workers relocating to Seattle. He’s also witnessed some unexpected movement across Lake Washington: Young buyers from Bellevue have seized this opportunity to live in downtown Seattle condos. “It’s really bizarre,” says Nasvik. “That’s the last thing any of us expected, but we were happy to embrace it.”

    Are these home shoppers making good investments? Nasvik notes that both buyers and sellers desire certainty, which the pandemic may not allow for anytime soon. But he’s bullish on downtown’s recovery, and Gudger wouldn’t bet against the area’s long-term rebound. “I think that five years from now,” says Gudger, “if you buy a downtown condo now, you’re going to be in pretty good shape.””

  20. 20
    Eastsider says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 13
    Seattle spends $100k per homeless person based on one estimate. The more homelessness, the bigger the homeless budget. Who benefits from increased homelessness? Ask your city council and their cronies.

    According to survey data, approximately 9.5 percent of the city’s homeless say that they came “for legal marijuana,” 15.4 percent came “to access homeless services,” and 15.7 percent were “traveling or visiting” the region and decided that it was a good place to set up camp. As the city builds out its addiction infrastructure and focuses social services in the downtown core, the problem will intensify. Even King County’s former homelessness czar admits that the city’s policies have a “magnet effect.”

    Seattle Under Siege

  21. 21
    TJ_98370 says:

    RE: Justsomedude12 @ 19
    “In keeping with your agenda, I noticed you cherry picked the part you like, and left out: ……”
    Hi Justsomedude12. – I don’t have an agenda. What I posted was just the first part of the article. I posted a link for anyone interested to read the entire article. I do agree with your point though, the first part of the article was more negatively biased than the last part.

  22. 22
    Justsomedude12 says:

    RE: TJ_98370 @ 21 – Just seems like all your posts coincidentally have that same narrative.

  23. 23
    TJ_98370 says:

    .RE“Just seems like all your posts coincidentally have that same narrative.”
    Point taken.
    I admit that I am biased toward hoping the whole real estate speculation/appreciation thing collapses. As a boomer, I can remember my dad being able to buy a decent home for under one year’s annual salary when working for the Navy as a civilian. That was when housing was “shelter” not an investment. The Tim’s “Seattle Bubble Blog” was originated with him lamenting that Seattle housing was unaffordable for first time buyers. It appears that things have gotten worse over the last several years. I guess I am attracted to any info that may indicate that there is a correction coming.
    Personal – I’m retired living with reduced income. I want to move to a house more amenable to my needs. But real estate has gone crazy! I watch Seattle real estate because whatever trends develop in Seattle eventually spill over to Kitsap County in one way or another. I’ve watched properties sell for over 45% increase over original purchase price in my nabe within three years. That is totally nuts in my opinion and I do not see how that kind of activity is sustainable. But what do I know………
    Reply — Quote

    : Justsomedude12 @ 22

  24. 24
    N says:

    TJ – I read the article. You made a valid point. The counter in the 2nd half of the article was more about anecdotal evidence than hard data. Maybe the flight out of downtown is temporary but 3 months of inventory to 9 months is a jump anyway you look at it but regardless of those specifics I’d rather see different perspectives then all bull or all bear.

  25. 25
    Whatsmyname says:

    By TJ_98370 @ 23:

    That was when housing was “shelter” not an investment.

    Granted, there are no cave paintings of apartment blocks, but you are kidding; right?

  26. 26
    Justsomedude12 says:

    RE: TJ_98370 @ 23 – I sympathize. I also wish RE prices were not so volatile.

  27. 27
    Justsomedude12 says:

    RE: N @ 24 – The ironic thing is that savvy buyers and investors will use the increase in Downtown inventory as an opportunity to buy.

    Others will wait until Covid is over and things have “settled down”. But they’ll only know that things have settled down when inventory is back down again. Obviously at that point they’ve missed an opportunity.

    It seems so easy to time the market and buy at the right time, but in reality human nature causes people to do just the opposite.

  28. 28

    RE: HTX @ 16
    Yes Thank you for Your Honesty About Rocket Scientists being NASA Extinct Dinosaurs

    I Started Hearing About it twenty years ago, that 2011 bunch of layoffs went along with early retirements too? We complained about NASA a couple decades ago, because it wasn’t our dad’s Oldsmobile anymore and mentors for new rocket scientists were gone long before we could have used them now:

    This is a 2012 news article about NASA:

    “…I watched “60 Minutes” a few weeks ago and one segment really caught my attention.

    A group of men, most in their late 50’s and early 60’s that had worked at NASA for years were interviewed. Now with the end of the space program, they are jobless. It was a very emotional discussion, and several of them wept during the interview.

    These were men that had literally grown up with the space program — most with 25-35 years at NASA. Today only a handful of people are left.

    If NASA wanted to send a man to the moon or Mars today, it couldn’t do it. All the knowledge and experience is gone. NASA would literally have to start from scratch…”

    Now, grab your cup of coffee and read the brief:

    “… In Seattle’s bad air, what’s happening to the birds?
    Are they vanishing, or can we just not see them in all this smoke? Birds can be hit hard when air quality is bad, and some local birders say things aren’t looking right. Above, a song sparrow makes the best of things, taking a bath in a Lake Forest Park backyard this week. (Photo: Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)…”

    SWE’s take: Good news story. Yes the birds are gone this week during smoke pollution. It may be the flapping of the wings and lack of energy? I’m looking forward to the rain tomorrow, the birds are too.

    “… COVID-19 contact tracing, hailed as a key part of slowing the virus, is falling short in Washington state. This has health officials pleading with the public to cooperate. A lack of clear data on antigen test results is also leaving the state “blind to the pandemic,” a public health leader says. Find today’s live updates here…”

    SWE’s take: Tracing medical history by patient name is illegal….all medical personal information is. So why are we blaming the Constitution laws as bad? Imagine being laid off for testing positive and are asymptomatic [no symptoms what-so-ever]… most that test positive are asymptomatic BTW; that’s why with huge positive case numbers in America due to much more thorough testing, it simultaneously has the lowest death-rate from Killer Flu in the world. For every Yin there’s a Yang…its all non-partisan too, why wouldn’t it be? Believe W.H.O. on the importance of total case numbers tested if ya want, I just think they’re a phony Chinese lapdog…LOL

    “…A student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the UW, demanding tuition reimbursement after COVID-19 closed campus…”

    SWE’s take: Anyone that registered at U of W this year just got stung by the Killer Flu Bee. Public schools too.

    “…Pac-12 football took a major step toward returning to play as the governors of Oregon and California lifted restrictions, and Trump called on the conference to “get going.” Here’s what would have to happen next for a fall kickoff….”

    SWE’s take: Give us back our Huskies, please?

    “… Beyond the man cave: Maybe you’re an empty-nester, or just have an unused room or finished basement. A little planning and some creative ideas can help you make the most of that extra space and make home a happier place to be…”

    SWE’s take: Sell it, pocket the money and live somewhere smaller instead. I love my man cave BTW. Tenants living with me would be a shock to me now.

    Good News; Louisiana may build back from 2009 Obama NASA layoffs? Erik Smiles.


  29. 29
    ruxpert says:

    Is RE the best investment in/for volatile times?
    Armed Militias in Louisville

  30. 30

    I Read all the Comments and one main Thread Appears: One Size Does Not Fit All

    Some want a retirement savings, some don’t care [for now]. The smoke/fog of JUMBO home mortgage FICO scores and 20% down payment required is clarified by this link. Are there exceptions, I need a link like mine to believe. Are 2.5% 15 Year loans a joke with no documented URL? Will the SMOKE disappear after it rains today? Time will tell, if we ever get it in writing…LOL


    Time to make your own coffee indoors and save breathing in SMOKE outside to get a Starbucks and read the brief:

    “… The outdoors, a lifeline during the pandemic, has been choked off by smoke. With more people staying inside, will the virus spread faster? Our FAQ tackles that and how COVID-19 compares to the flu. Find today’s live updates here…”

    SWE’s Take: Now the virus gets worse with home isolation? Clear scientific opinion we all can trust? LOL…I hate politics.

    Good News: The second stimulus package not needed for Killer Flu now that the 29000 DOW “V” shaped recession has ended with job openings all over Kent too? It depends on which political party “floats your boat”, as Tim would say….

  31. 31

    A very interesting Podcast, though NYC specific. I always listen to most everything Jonathan has to say, moreso than Noah. I like Noah equally to Jonathan as a friend, but he doesn’t have the cred that Jonathan has. I don’t know John at all so you can decide on that. Lots of relevant comments including the difference between wealthy people and density and poorer people and density. Also the un-sustainability of the surge of bidding wars in the burbs. The end thoughts about the shift from renting in-city to buying in burbs is also very important. If you look closely even in our market, a lot of the listings coming on out of season to a higher degree for this season are owners selling rentals since the price pressure is more on rent prices than sold prices.

    Maybe the things I find to be interesting are not interesting to you. :) But posting something that is at a high enough level to attract my attention. I’m still listening as I’m typing and I’m pretty much tuning John out at this point. Let me know what you think of him as I have a bias.


  32. 32
    don says:

    RE: Ardell DellaLoggia @ 31

    Thanks for linking this, Ardell

    Miller, being a rock star appraiser and long time observer of his market, is a person whose “gut” I would trust as a fair commentator.

    His comments about the “exodus from the city” media crowd are telling. Headlines designed for views and clicks are a drug for media as it is what pays the bills. Miller’s aside that ” if true, by the end of this month only 5 people will be left in Manhattan” [paraphased] was hard to catch in the talk, but expresses the draw of commercially powerful cities.

  33. 33

    RE: don @ 32

    I think the picture shows in this link. Me in the middle, Jonathan on my left and Noah on his left at the end. Noah was a lot younger then. Jonathan hasn’t aged a bit. :)


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