Home Buyers Don't Sing the St. Louis Blues

It's not in the cards for any city, whether it's in the bread basket of the country or on the East or West Coast, to be taken for granted.

Even if it has a great zoo and great breweries and a traditionally contending, scrappy baseball club.

As sports fans know, St. Louis is about to lose one of its Cardinal teams, its not-so-successful professional football team, to the city of Phoenix if a majority of National Football League team owners approve the move.

But a little-known fact about St. Louis is that it is the nation's most affordable major housing market. That doesn't get the city too many headlines.

But in 1987, for the sixth consecutive year, St. Louis maintained that distinction, based on average home prices and average household income.

Only 18.2% of income was needed to pay for the conventionally financed home (20% down payment, fixed-rate loan) there last year, about 10% less than the current national average income of 28%. The rule of thumb has always been that 25% of the family's income be devoted for shelter.

You might know a California city would be at the other end of the affordability ladder. This time it's San Diego, where 33.3% of family income is needed to pay the monthly mortgage, according to the mortgage banking giant, Lomas & Nettleton Co. of Dallas.

San Diego replaced the Denver-Boulder area, the 1986 leader in the annual survey.

Next among the least affordable cities are New York, requiring 33.1% of income; Boston, 32.9%, and yes, Los Angeles, 3l.7%.

Meanwhile, St. Louis remains the only major market where the average home purchase last year required a monthly payment of less than $700.

Six of the seven most affordable areas last year were in the Midwest, the others being Cleveland, 20.2% income needed; Indianapolis, 22.1%; Kansas City, 22.9%; Columbus, Ohio, 23%, and Detroit, 23.4%. The outsider was Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, 22.1%.

The mortgage firm's report in its U. S. Housing Markets study doesn't urge or suggest home seekers go East or Midwest for affordable housing. But there's no mention of cold winters or hot summers either. Just the cold hard data.

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