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Des Moines and Baton Rouge Lead "Affordability List" but Still No Investor's Picnic


Jun 02, 2020 by Marc Rapport

Des Moines and Baton Rouge hold the distinction of being the only two "truly affordable" metro housing markets in America, according to the May 2020 Affordability Report from Realtor.com.

And of those two state capitals, Des Moines has the distinction of being the only non-Southern city that makes the list of top six markets that the listing site deems as "the most affordable metros where home inventory is still available."

Meanwhile, the least affordable and available are all on the West Coast.

Things are tough all around

Investors looking for turnaround deals, as well as those seeking a place to rent or live, may have to look hard perhaps wherever they are, the site adds, because of diminished supply.

"The nation's inventory of homes for sale has hit historic lows as enacted COVID-19 measures reduced market activity," the Realtor.com report said. "This is why, despite improvements to affordability due to low interest rates, homeowner hopefuls currently shopping for an affordable home will find the process much tougher than before."

The most affordable and accessible

These conclusions are based on comparing listings and income levels to come up with the Realtors Affordability Distribution Score. That score was 0.85 out of 1 in April, which means the selection of listed homes was 7.6% more affordable to buyers than the score of 0.79 from April 2019, Realtor.com said in the report it released on May 21.

The two markets that had the highest score were Des Moines-West Des Moines in Iowa at 1.03 and Louisiana's Baton Rouge at 1.0 even. They're followed by Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia at 0.89, Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia at 0.89, Jacksonville, Florida, at 0.83, and Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida, at 0.87.

Of those six markets, Lakeland-Winter Haven actually had the lowest median listing price, at $235,050, while Atlanta's was highest at $325,050.

Looking for flips in all the wrong places

Investors looking for deals may have a particularly tough time in the markets that the Realtor.com study deems as having both low affordability and low accessibility.

That list is led by Silicon Valley, where the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara affordability score for April was 0.50 out of 1 and the median listing price was $1,198,050. Following in order are San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, with a median listing price of $938,494 and then Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, and San Diego-Carlsbad.

High prices aren't the only impediment to residential real estate investing in these West Coast markets. Along with price growth from strong tech-centered economies, long-standing high demand has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its shelter-in-place orders.

"Currently, there are only two to four homes for sale per 1,000 households in these metropolitan areas," the report said.

Things are tight all around

Even those six markets deemed most affordable and accessible are affected by tight inventory, with less than 10 listings per 1,000 households each, compared to a national average of 17 per 1,000 households, Realtor.com said.

This could make it even harder for flippers and homesteaders alike to find deals in what may soon be a recovering market.

"Years of inventory declines due to a lack of construction activity and less mobility has resulted in very few metropolitan areas have truly 'accessible' inventory," the report concluded, adding, "Years of accumulating home prices have also resulted in few metros having an inventory of homes for sale that is truly affordable to the average buyer."

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