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Real Estate Guide 2007
Analysis by region
National statistics are meaningful, but in real estate "location, location, location" means local trends trump all.
Analysis by region
South basks in real estate sunshine

Good news for home buyers south of the Mason-Dixon Line: You're shopping in one of the two most affordable regions in the country.

While Dixie prices aren't quite as good as the Midwest, the region still offers better than average deals according to the Housing Affordability Index, compiled regularly by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The index looks at home prices in an area, along with salaries, the percentage of income homeowners are spending on a mortgage and a host of other factors. The result: a pretty good indication of just how much home you could buy. And this is one index where, to get the most home for your dollar, you want to see the highest number possible.

A score of 100 means that someone earning the area's median income can afford to buy a median-priced home. And "if the number is 125, it means that a typical person has 25 percent more income than is necessary to buy a typical median-priced home," says Lawrence Yun, a senior economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

In the South the index was 119.8 -- 5.1 percent better than 2005. That's topped only by the Midwest which had an index figure of 150.8 -- 7.1 percent better than the same time last year, says Yun.

And the outlook for buyers all over the country has been getting better, he says. "The affordability index has been improving, as of late," says Yun. "People's incomes are rising, and home prices have stalled or are, in some cases, declining. The national index is up 2.8 percent to 109.3."

Location still matters
With a median income of $53,179, a buyer can purchase 20 percent more house for the money in the South, according to recent NAR statistics.

But numbers don't tell the whole story. The median home price across the region is $181,700, but a buyer looking in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area will see median prices of $366,800. And while the area has seen some price decreases, the southeast Florida coast is still one of the most expensive areas of the region, according to the most recent NAR numbers.

-- Posted: March 8, 2007
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